In the game of thrones, even the humblest pieces can have wills of their own.
Sometimes they refuse to make the moves you've planned for them. — George R R Martin
"How was it?''
Eyes closed, white robes still drenched in the icy waters he has spent three hours kneeling in but he could already tell who his visitor is, having memorized the rhythm of those footsteps like his own heartbeat.
''It was heart-wrenching. Excruciatingly. Painfully. '' every word was said with much emphasis as the visitor made his way to the center of the vast spring before embracing the saint from behind ''boring.''
''I'm sure a room with big windows filled with important people is more interesting than an afternoon-long sabbath,'' says Hinata. "Daiou-sama."
Said Grand King lowers his other hand to skirt around the saint's lithe waist. ''Believe me, you are far more interesting than a council of old men threatened by a rumored bastard raising hell across the sea.''
''A bastard with a claim to the throne?''
Oikawa hums, voice like silk fluttering against the saint's bare back that made Hinata shudder in sinful delight. ''Nothing a pretty little thing like you should worry about,'' he says and their lips meet halfway.
Tooru Oikawa didn't believe in the gods, the old or the new. A fact that he didn't care enough to make it a secret when he'd make a mockery of them through thinly-veiled jests. After all, he holds his fate in his own hands, not by the faceless ones he bothers not to name.
As the 28th Grand King of the jeweled kingdom of Seijoh, his faith was with himself and the people.
The young man was blessed with an opulent life and was rumored to be gifted by Eros with unrivaled beauty in the form of pale skin and tousled brown locks to complement his tall built. And if he was not acclaimed for his beauty, then it was the terrifying use of his charisma as an innate ability to bring anyone down their knees. Although everything known about him that could be found in poetry or his lore were facts, it barely scratched the surface of his character. For the true nature of the Grand King's strength was his unique style of ruling, one he cultivated through a reformed modus operandi.
Oikawa has spent sleepless nights engrossed in the hundreds and thousands of books Seijoh could offer. He learns all of his predecessors's lives- of their success, their downfalls, missteps, and persons. He learns of their contributions. Their legacies. The previous king has applaud his son's dedication to honor their family's memory, while his childhood friend just shook his head in disbelief. If anything, Oikawa was planning the biggest coup d' etat of the entire Seijoh bloodline.
He learns of everyone's weaknesses, exploits them in determination that he will not meet his end in a poisoned cup laced by their own lover or suicide because they couldn't handle the duress Aoba Josai has generously offered. It was a matter of eat or be eaten.
Nobody is born a perfect king. It was futile to rely on blood and inheritance alone as it was on the previous ruler should they be venerated on their great accomplishments. And Oikawa was not one to ride the coattails of his ancestors. So when he had finally ascended to the throne at the young age of eighteen, Oikawa rebuilt the glorious kingdom on a hill of abundant precious stones, provided his people a lavish lifestyle, assimilated a more flamboyant culture, and created a stronger Aoba Josai Court. Their economy flourished as a kingdom of luxury, free will, and pleasure. A capital of sin.
It was perfect. They were perfect.
The only flaw, if one could even consider it such, was his lack of interest when it came to their beliefs. For the many things Tooru Oikawa was known for, it was also his insolence. Ungrateful to his gifts and indifference to his faith. His punishment, as spoken by a blind saintess she claimed to have witnessed in a dream, was a prophecy of his or the current Seijoh's demise.
Oikawa laughed. The entire court of Aoba Josai laughed.
Yet unperturbed, the blind saintess continued to speak of a songbird, so white and so pure yet capable of lulling the king's wretched heart into disillusion that will ultimately end in tragedy. ''Then let it come,'' says Oikawa as he approached the brave soul soon-to-be executed for her insolence towards him. ''Let me heartily dine in the feast the gods oh, so especially prepared for me.''
The next day, they hung her corpse along the castle gates directed to a generous view from the religious sector.
''He doesn't bow to tradition,'' was the infamous quote from the captain of the kingsguard. ''with him, it is time who bends back and forth. No legacy shall surpass his reign.''
At first it caused outrage amongst the strongly-opinionated masses with the idea of a heathen on their throne which resulted in a year-long feud that ultimately ended with a slight separation of power. He forgives their slander with a hearty smile behind the condition to never speak of him in any ill-manner again or live a life not speaking at all.
For he doesn't condone worship, the king reassures them after he burns the six priests responsible for a distasteful propaganda they've written against him, but he doesn't want to actively participate in it either. Oikawa would rather invest his time and interests in their kingdom's much more important political affairs such as the looming war against the entire empire from across the sea.
What started as a spark from a banished royal family burned into a wildfire that engulfed the entire East. They laid low enough to be underestimated but not low enough to be entirely forgotten as they slowly built an army capable of taking their throne back. Oikawa admits that it was a very cunning move on their part, wreaking havoc from the other side of the continent to make known of their embers all across Shiratorizawa.
''Not that it's Seijoh's burden to bear,'' he says when once again faced with the offer to join his kingdom with their empire's. Shiratorizawa, while equipped with raw strength that claimed six kingdoms under their wing, was not the best with reconnaissance. Or in a crude but blunt way of saying, they weren't exactly strategy-smart. And Seijoh, if not for the wealthy front they show, had enough military tactics under their sleeves that was viable enough to fill the Shiratorizawa's mssing gap to create the perfect empire.
''Are you sure that's wise?" says Hanamaki as he eyes the charred letter. ''They are offering protection and food in exchange for loyalty.''
''Loyalty is an intangible thing, Makki-kun. It's priceless.'' Oikawa's eyes twinkled in mischief. ''Why waste it on the likes of Ushiwaka?''
It was no secret that Seijoh was a landmine of riches that could rival the Iron Banks. Their kingdom could easily produce the most expensive precious stones one could never think of ever possessing. To have and hold a piece from the cosmics, kept and showed off in the form of a delicately crafted metalwork. They were a powerhouse of frivolity invested by countless nobles and royals alike. The war would be a passing problem for them.
It hasn't even started yet but the financial state of the empire already taken its toll. The preparation took a lint from their profits to accommodate weaponry and food and suddenly everything was taxed. Needless to say, the only secret the jeweled kingdom of Seijoh has is the fact the that Shiratorizawa literally gave them a run for their money. And the worst part, their emperor didn't even mean to.
"People would rather fund survival than the fleeting experience of frivolity and pleasure." were one Wakatoshi Ushijima's infamous replies to Oikawa's balant and continous rejection to his offer.
At wits ends, he asks for his advisors.
''But my advisors-
''-are there to counsel you, not make the ultimate decision. For someone smart, you often forget the obvious flow of authority and power.''
Hinata moves his pawn and takes Oikawa's. The Grand King chokes from his wine, immediately sitting upright to fully return his attention on their game. Just because he always won doesn't mean going easy halfway. A strong mindset he has developed to ensure his survival on the court of Aoba Josai after watching his older sister forcefully whisked away by an group of knights and married off for convenience.
Keep kicking your enemy down and don't let up until they're dead under the sole of your shoe.
''And you are too rash.''
A forgotten knight knocks the pawn off the chessboard and the saint cries. ''I thought I had you today while you mull in and about your distress.''
''That would be a win without honor, my little songbird.''
Hinata scoffs despite knowing he'd be checkmated in three moves or less. With the Grand King, it was both futile and an eventuality anyways. ''And so? What do you plan to do about the high and mighty eagle pecking its way into your castle?''
''Oh, so you were actually listening.''
''Daiou-sama,'' he starts in an unperturbed tone. Their secret meetings were peculiar enough as it is that Hinata often wonders why Oikawa would include asking the likes of him for advice that will delicately tip his conscience and the state of his kingdom. In short, their fate now lays in the hands of the saint. ''why do you even bother hosting these exhausting meetings for people to keep telling you to accept the empire's offer if you'll keep saying no?''
''To weight the pros and cons?''
Hinata doesn't believe him and it shows. ''I'd like to think you're just finding a better reason to accept the offer.'' Oikawa bristles at his transparency. ''Not that you'll ever find it though.''
If it wasn't Hanamaki delivering him letters from the ever-persistent Shiratorizwa Empire or Matsukawa flirting with its annoying ambassador, then it was Iwaizumi back from front lines after suppressing a small town, religious-fanatic fraction who was nagging him back to the issue.
''They're using the war to gain leverage, to earn the people's trust.'' says the knight as he callously throws his cross guard over the expensive mahogany table. Oikawa whines in protest at the cruel treatment of his most favorite furniture. ''They say that the gods are punishing them because of you.''
''And they believed it?''
Iwaizumi scoffed. ''Anyone would believe anything that comes out of a rat's mouth who is more than capable of feeding a hundred hungry stomachs.''
''It's not my fault that their work is in decline. The mines are blocked-
''-because of the impending war, yes we are aware of that. Everybody is aware of that. What they aren't aware of is that Shiratorizawa has offered an olive branch that their king continuously refuses to take it!'' Their eyes meet, deadly dark brown orbs clashed with another. ''Why is that, by the way?''
The silence was unnerving, especially for the counsel who just happened to be a casualty audience for their nth confrontation.
''We don't need them.'' any semblance of Oikawa's charismatic mask easily melted into an ugly sneer only the inner circle of Aoba Josai has had the pleasure to see. ''We just need a middle ground- someone already allied with Shiratorizawa to whom we could easily cut ties with should the war take an ugly turn." Lanky fingers delicately traced the intricate painting of the world's map painted on their seating table, only to stop at one small kingdom. And perhaps it was even too generous to call it a kingdom.
''Karasuno? The Tengu clan?''
The elder members of the court made a face akin to a mix of recognition and fondness. No doubt they had interacted with them at least once in their lifetime. Iwaizumi calls it sentimental, Oikawa uses it to his advantage. The signs of trust meant the favors will be called in supporting his side by the end of the meeting. ''I heard from a grapevine that their line of succession is an incredible mess right now. Ever since Daichi Sawamura decided to marry a commoner-
''A respectable physician's son.''
Oikawa pointedly ignores his knight. ''and raise a bastard who, how should I put this lightly? Ran with his tail tucked behind his arse due to pressure and has put the entire kingdom in disarray.''
''But they wouldn't relinquish their throne that easily.'' a collective murmur in agreement echoed within the vast room. ''The generation is a new one, reckless and etched with loose morals but young and hot-blooded. They wouldn't bow to tradition even if the gods were to step on their heads.'' like you, was left unsaid.
But the Grand King, per usual, just laughed the underhanded insult off. ''The thing about ruling in an unorthodox method is that one can easily rewrite hundreds of documents, outlast a legacy and refine a new era worth learning more about in history.'' he meets their gaze with conviction. ''I have plans for Seijoh, and the Tengu Clan for Karasuno. Big plans. But in order to achieve that, they need a capable king to sit on their throne.''
''Are you suggesting yourself?''
Iwaizumi snorts and Oikawa's facade slips. ''Not me, you old fool! I'd rather die than wear their colors!''
A sword meets a millimetre of the intruder's throat but Iwaizumi halts in recognition.
''Ah, so nice of you to join us Tobio-chan albeit fashionably late as always.'' Oikawa's demeanor changes for the third time that day. ''All those etiquette lessons for naught.''
''You're the last person who should be telling me that, Oikawa-san.''
''Insolent little brat-
''Good day, Iwaizumi-san.'' The raven haired prince pointedly ignores Oikawa in favor of his knight. "I've received your letter about the situation."
"Judging from your uninvited attendance today, I take it that you and Shittykawa here have reached to an agreement beneficial to both our kingdoms?"
He shrugged. "If Oikawa-san is ready to pay his debt, then who am I to refuse?"
The Grand King's cheeks bloomed crimson at the horrid memory from so many years ago that he could never bring himself to forget. A haunting nightmare that eats his sleeps away more than Ushiwaka's persistence to recruit their help against Inarizaki. He had once told Hinata, a dreadful mistake on his part as the ginger-haired saint laughed about for months.
''You got stabbed by a wild pig?!''
''I almost died! And more than often I would've preferred so than to be indebted to that pompous, arrogant little shite-''
Tobio Kageyama was 14 at that time, a squire under Iwaizumi who undoubtedly pitted them against a sword fight for his own amusement. While Oikawa was two years older and had the appropriate skill level to wield a sword, he didn't possess the ability to use it gracefully. Not like the brat with raven black hair and hungry cobalt eyes, preying to devour Oikawa alive.
Which drove the crown prince at that time to take him under his wing and deflate his inferiority complex.
''Did it work?''
''No. It backfired tenfold.''
Thus it took one hot hunting trip, a broken knee, and a crazy pig on the loose to owe Kageyama of all people a life debt when he carefully maneuvered the injured prince out of the forestry and back to help. Five years later and he wants it paid in full.
"King Daichi is hosting a tournament for five of the most prominent houses in Karasuno to name their heir.'' Kageyama starts like a true spoken leader and Oikawa manages a scoff despite the sharp jab at his ribs. ''Of course, I'll be facing these challenges alone but it would be nice to know that there are people in my corner, unbiased and outside our circle.''
''Are you asking us to spy for you?!''
''No. Not in the slightest.'' was his straight answer. ''To put it bluntly, I need a strong backing.''
''You have our support.''
''I'm going to need more than that.'' On another day, Oikawa would've called for the guards to cut the little runt's tongue off, but today he was negotiating to finally call the stupid debt off if not for the sake of honor but his sanity. ''I need assurance.''
''Then what do you want?'' it is the royal knight who speaks up this time. ''Surely we could come up with a better compromise than loose ends and empty promises?''
''I hate this.''
"No, really, I hate this.''
It was midnight, the air was cold and the water colder only warmed by the two bodies lying in the middle of the shallow sacred spring. Hinata was in a kneeling position while Oikawa had his head comfortably situated on his lap.
''I'm sure Kageyama-kun had his reasons.''
Oikawa snorts. ''He says he will think about, then abruptly left the room and everyone hanging like some sort of-
"I was going to say brat.''
Hinata laughs, and it felt the like universe stilled for a moment and the stars fell on them just because. Jeweled, beryl eyes were now fixated on him, which was unfair, because Tooru Oikawa was a Grand King who had Seijoh's royal blood running in his veins while Shouyou Hinata was just an outsider of common and unimportant roots, bought to him as a birthday present to sing him praises like a little pet songbird. He shouldn't be mesmerizing, painted with constellations on his sun-kissed skin, or sporting the bright colored locks that reminded Oikawa of the soft sunset which follows after a restless day. Most especially, he shouldn't be able to intimately weave his nimble fingers on Oikawa's locks with the innate ability to wash the Grand King's trouble away into the sacred waters. ''But you need him.''
''I do,'' Oikawa admits. ''when he ascends into the Black Throne through an alliance with Seijoh, then by proxy we are allied to Shiratorizawa's too. And Ushiwaka can eat dirt and leave me alone.''
''You are confident.'' the saint notices that he didn't use the word if. ''But will you allow your kingdom to fund a war that could possibly annihilate a third of the world's population because of an overdue apology?''
''A small price to pay.''
He almost regrets his callous words seeing as the fond look on etched in Hinata's face quickly morphed into something else. Something unreadable. Oikawa doesn't like it one bit. ''It's just like chess. You have to make a few sacrifices to pave way for the back to advance.''
For a long time, Hinata doesn't say anything and just when the Grand King sat upright to leave, he sings.
They weren't always like this- Oikawa and his secret visits to the very sector he loathes, the shared meals and casual conversations or Hinata's intimate way of enacting companionship that could rival a lover's touch.
It happened a hundred days after he ascended into the throne and has presented everyone the carnage of the blind saintess who dared name his or Seijoh's demise- in the middle of the civil unrest between Aoba Josai and the church was a caravan that captured what they claimed to be a dessert flower. The elder Oikawa, after he has officially abdicated, decided to buy the exotic thing and gift him to his son.
A treat, he says, to help him unwind from the pressure as the new Grand King of Seijoh.
Oikawa, eighteen and restless at that time, barely batted an eye at the poor, foreign, slave boy forced to wear chiffon. Probably virgin too. Any other time and he would've love to tease the little thing but the word heretic, heathen, demon was repeatedly thrown his way and anymore than that made him want to kill somebody-
''You're hurting yourself.''
He jolts at the sight of the boy, just a few years younger than him, chained inside a beautiful human-sized birdcage mounted beside his balcony. ''I didn't give you any permission to speak,'' he says steely but his companion was unfazed. Oikawa unlaces his fingers tightly clutching his locks, a habit he became accustomed to since Iwaizumi made that bold statement in his defense. While he was grateful for the strong choice of words, the heat of the consequences were too much to handle and given without a head start, Oikawa was harshly backed-up against the corner by an angry mob of believers.
In frustration, he turns to the ginger-haired boy covered in jewels worth more than his person. ''So what else are you good for, aside from posing as an exotic whore from the wastelands?''
''Wastelands?'' he tilts his head in confusion, succulent lips parted as if he was innocent.
Maybe is he, Oikawa muses. ''Yes, the wastelands. All sun-dried and sand filled with barbaric people with no ounce of integrity-
-yet it is your people who flaunt their naked bodies around in exchange for a few stones that seem to hold equal value to life here.'' there was no malice in his voice, regardless of the unfortunate situation that held him captive in a massive cage or to whom he was speaking to.
Oikawa could kill him in a heartbeat.
''You amuse me, Daiou-sama, how you effortlessly parade yourself with a bold font then kill yourself at night, mulling over words than you can never take back.'' A hand quickly reached into the silver bars, grabbing at the little one's jaw to forcefully look at him. The Grand King finds himself looking into a predator.
Why hasn't he noticed this before?
''Careful. You are in the presence of King.''
''I know.'' he gives a rueful smile and said king was taken aback. He catches himself before his facade slips any further, hand immediately retracted as if he was burned. The realization sinks in as Oikawa reels in the fact he was being watched the entire time under jeweled, beryl eyes. His entire being shuddered.
He doesn't like that. Not one bit.
In a flash, his sword meets the silver lock's end before he harshly yanked the ginger-haired boy out of the comfort of his cage. Oikawa dragged him into the long decorated hallway, not even stopping when the boy trips himself. But the boy doesn't cry or protest at the unjust treatment. Instead, he marvels at the expensive tapestries or vases they passed by.
It was a front, a false bravado of indifference by diverting his attention elsewhere. Oikawa knows this because he does it most of the time.
The rich, oak wood double-doors opened in a loud bang that silenced the entire throne room. The Grand King strides for the third time of the day, turquoise cape and jeweled crown absent and looking unruly as ever. Yet the sadistic smile etched on his face barely eased up as the entire court's eyes were now preying on the boy behind. Oikawa felt him tremble before throwing him steps below his throne for everyone to see.
"What are you doing?" Iwaizumi whispers from beside him, the look disappointment and disgust evident. But the Grand King pointedly ignores him as he rest his cheek on his right palm. He loves his dear friend of many summers ago but for a royal knight who has firsthand seen bloodshed play in politics, he was still too much of a goody-two-shoes. Oikawa, for the many flaws that he hides beneath the cruel mask of a king, is grateful he wasn't born with a big heart like Iwaizumi.
The court would've eaten him alive if so.
"Entertain us." He says instead. "Oh sweet, Dessert Flower."
The boy, now fueled with defiance, pushed himself to stand but the weight of the stares were nothing compared to when he first step foot within the silver gates of Seijoh or the many portraits of the previous rulers of Aoba Josai. It was crushing, mixed with scrutiny and sadistic amusement.
His knees buck and the court laughs at his weakness. Oikawa takes pleasure in the crimson blooming in the ginger-haired boy's cheek in humiliation and Iwaizumi looks away.
"Well, I say my dear father has been clearly been scammed." more laughter. "Do you think the merchant would accept a full refund? Not that he cost much anyways."
"Would you like to sell him to me instead, sire?" says a faceless member and more murmured in agreement, throwing the word auction and five silver pieces around the air.
Nevertheless, his eyes never left the Grand King looking down on him. He says something under his breath in a language Oikawa couldn't pick up.
"What did you say?"
He doesn't reply. Instead, he quickly rises from the ashes of his shame before wordlessly making his way to one of the many big, opened windows of the throne room. He presses a palm onto the light-colored glass, opens his mouth to take a deep breath and sings.
His voice was soothing, gentle, and melodic that perfectly tuned the melancholic folk song. There no musical instrument to back him up, as the small band of musicians discarded in the corner were equally mesmerized as the rest of the audience were. Every note was sung like an echo resounding around the throne room.
It was angelic.
Oikawa couldn't take his eyes off his pet, despite the barely clothed back facing them. A gush of wind passed through and the white chiffon danced in the air, taking an illusion form of a pair of white wings.
But as quickly as it started, the song ended and the vast throne room once again fell into silence. And then it rained.
For the last summers when the heat was unforgiving and the river almost had dried up, Seijoh barely rained. The issue, however, was buried by the messy preparations of Tooru Oikawa's ascent to the throne as well as the feud between the religious sector and Aoba Josai. However, it seemed to have been solved by the arrival of a mystery songbird.
Oikawa could still remember the high priest demanding for the ginger-haired boy's presence in their sector as a compensation for the previous one the Grand King has callously murdered.
They claimed that Shouyou Hinata was the next saint based on the miracle he has performed and the strongly-opinionated masses have once again, emerge to back their support. Using the new law and the little amount of power gained by the High Priests, they peacefully protested outside the castle walls for days. Matsukawa suggested increasing the castle guards on the gate and Hanamaki finished off by the idea of slaughtering them.
"They're not breaking the law," says Iwaizumi.
"But they are pushing me to." Oikawa was at wit's end, wanting to fully focus on more pressing matters while his newly-appointed knight and his trope were incorporating a new training regimen.Their hands were tied and mind heavily-preoccupied with little to no time to appease the growing crowd. "Nevertheless I will not give him into their wrinkly hands. Who knows what they'll do to my little songbird?"
The ginger-haired's position was promoted one rank higher than those of the concubines from the other side of the castle, now as Oikawa's favorite companion to whom he shares his meals with behind closed doors. He learns that Hinata was no dessert flower, cannot dance for the life of two left-feet, but instead gifted with a voice that could coax him into a safe state of relaxation or a dreamless sleep. And the next day, he would wake up fully energized to perform his court duties more efficiently as ever.
Hinata was a blessing in disguise for his sanity, added to the fact whenever he sang words from the wastelands, it rained. Not too heavy to stop the miners from collecting precious stones from the quarries or to flood the sapphire river, but gentle enough to cool the scorching summer heat and water the next harvest.
And while Oikawa did not believe in the gods, the old or the new, he slightly acknowledges this small miracle.
Unfortunately, his people shares his sentiment. Boldly, he dares say.
"You cannot keep him here forever. What if someone tries to kidnap him for ransom, or worse, assassinate him?" His childhood friend's instinct was honed to always be on point as well as his reasoning but Oikawa was a prideful man. Despite the unrest and the skilled guards being preoccupied at the moment, he didn't worry about Hinata's safety. So long as he was singing inside the walls made of grandeur, then Hinata will be alright.
Once again, wrong.
It happened one afternoon when Oikawa was in his throne room, not bothering to bring his songbird in tow to appease the envying eyes of the nobles around him, when one of squires breathlessly barged in. There was blood in his sleeves but apparent that it did not belong to him. "Your majesty he- Hinata-sama was in the gardens when an arrow was fired towards him-!"
Crown and cape abandoned, the Grand King ran the fastest lap in his entire life. His heavy footsteps and crusade of guards behind him were muted by the heavy rain that followed after Hinata sang his ballad. Oikawa radiated of unrest, akin to a madman replacing his usual condescending brown orbs into a pair of dilated ones. He strides into the garden of tranquility, one newly built as an expansion for his songbird's cage, to find Hinata in the arms of Kunimi as he tries to apply pressure on the blooming crimson in his tonic.
He pushes the squire away and hastily takes Hinata into his arm. For the first time in his life, Oikawa prayed.
The spectators of the tragic incident thought of Shouyou Hinata as an enigma then- as the only person, albeit a stranger, who made Oikawa throw his pride away for a mere someone who could sing him to sleep or make the sky cry. But the Grand King happens to share their sentiments as well as he watches his songbird's eyes flutter from the sunlight piercing his room.
"You look awful." Hinata rasps and Oikawa, pride be damned, threw himself at the ginger-haired boy who slept a week of his life away and turned the king's in utter restlessness and chaos. His songbird has grown into him during the sleepless nights he spent mulling over Seijoh's crisis, the peaceful meals they shared and the tranquil strolls they've walk. Iwaizumi, Matsukawa and Hanamaki aside, Hinata talked to him without walking around eggshells. Showered him with genuine praise than empty flattery. Treated him as an actual human being first and a Grand King second.
It didn't matter if this bias was caused by the heat of his hundred days into the throne, the civil crisis with the religious sector or the looming war for it was still a fact that Shouyou Hinata was a breath of fresh air.
"You are awful." Oikawa counters before peppering his soft locks with sweet kisses. "I thought I lost you."
Hinata huffs. "It takes more than an arrow from the heavens to kill us barbaric people from the wastelands."
"I don't think you're barbaric, or from the wastelands." Hinata arches an eyebrow at him. "Not anymore at least. But please tell me more about yourself then. I want to know you better."
Oikawa offers him a glass of water and Hinata looks at him as if he just offered the world.
He learns that Hinata was from seas across where the dessert lies in the heart of the sun, born into a happy family comprising of hardworking parents and a jolly little sister. He learns that Hinata is literate, not as refined as Oikawa, but could read a different set of words written in symbols that were difficult to decipher. The ginger-haired boy tells him, no, sings to him in a much familiar language of the beauty of his country ruled by freedom, love and art until it once again, lulls the Grand King to sleep.
The next morning, Oikawa sents Hinata to the heart of Aoba Josai- a newly built cage hidden in the depths of the reformed religious sector to where he was expected to dedicate his life as Seijoh's newly-appointed saint.
Jeweled, beryl eyes looked betrayed but body resigned to his fate. Oikawa didn't need to explain himself, for he was king and Hinata was just property but he did so anyways. He states that crisis after crisis demanded most of his attention to stay in the court. Hinata, whose position was now the Grand King's favorite companion, was a target of malicious intent be it from a green-eyed nobles whose daughter Oikawa has not intention of marrying or a means to prove Oikawa's prophecy true. That he has grown weak, lovesick and disillusioned by Hinata's presence.
But hidden away from prying eyes where the most sacred spring resides, Hinata's safety would be guaranteed.
"Will you visit?" the ginger-haired saint asks and Oikawa responds with a peck on his lips. He and his countrymen were no stranger to intimacy but with Hinata, everything had to be taken in a much slower phase and gentle manner. Not that Oikawa minded. The sweetest wine takes patience after all.
"Whenever I can."
He keeps his promise for the next two, slightly, peaceful years of his reign. In between the hectic court duties and keeping Shiratorizawa kingdoms away from his, Oikawa still made time to sneak into the sacred waters bounded by looming walls to where Hinata can sing without any arrows aimed at his chest. His songbird grew from chiffon and jewelries, sleeves and tunics to white cloaks disregarding his gender. The religious sector seems to enjoy painting an idea of an androgynous angel-incarnate it seems. Again, not that Oikawa minds in the slightest, for Hinata was still Hinata regardless of what he wore.
The Grand King would play him a game of chess filled with banter and political ideas thrown in the air before he ends the game undefeated. As always. Nevertheless Hinata never grows tired of the petty ways reserved for him and only him to see. Some days it was comforting Oikawa in the vast spring reserved for prayers as the ginger-haired saint washes his woes away, other is when their touches get a little more heated than originally intended. Hinata's takes the initiative to kiss him boldly upon arrival and Oikawa's hands ventures lower and lower the next time they meet.
It was an unorthodox arrangement. One filled with immoral thoughts and gestures that shouldn't be happening between the heretic king and the beloved saint under the house of the gods. A label-less relationship; both wordless after their deeds were done yet it happens again and again. Whether Hinata sings to him, tells him stories of the Oasis or provides him the genuine comfort he needed, their relationship was not due to change anytime soon.
"Ushiwaka seems to have grown a fucking pair," Oikawa storms Hinata's room with little to no regard of the ungodly hour or the saint changing into his night wear. "ordering the miners of Seijoh like some slave-driver."
The Grand King harshly tugs at his collar, uncapping his silk cloak before throwing his body into Hinata's feather-filled cushions. "And I assume that Kageyama-kun's diplomatic mission went well?" he receives a grumble as a reply. "You need to hold your end of the bargain, Daiou-sama."
Oikawa throws a pillow at his direction. "Your gods knows I will. But not even the best group of blacksmiths in the kingdom can mass produce a thousand armory in a week. They seem to forget that we are sorely lacking the funds needed to supply more raw materials and man power."
"What about the jewelry business?"
"Not going so well as people would rather buy grain than pretty little stones on their neck or dresses." Hinata nods in agreement. "I hate war. It's bad for business and my sanity."
The saint chuckles before making his way into Oikawa's lap, straddled tightly as he brushes his brown tousled locks. It was one of the many tricks he learned, albeit a simple gesture, can effectively appease the Grand King's irritation. "What is the most expensive thing on your market?"
Oikawa was slightly taken aback from the unexpected question from nowhere within their topic range. He was under the impression that Hinata never really cared for jewels."... As of now, the tanzanite I guess. Seijoh sells the best in blue after all."
"That is true. But what if there is something more valuable? Something they've never seen before, unique, more beautiful, more rare." Oikawa arches an eyebrow as the saint continues. "Stones are not only mined in the quarries you know. In my country, we use the rivers bedrock with a pan. You'd be surprised with what you can find in Seijoh's sapphire waters."
True to his words, or assumptions, the glimmering river did have untouched jewels hidden beneath its corners. They were not sapphires, but they were worth so much more. And it started a trend amongst the royal classes in the world.
The Blue Diamonds.
Pure, and exotic colored diamonds found only in Seijoh that owning one equated as proof of the blue blood running through a royal's veins. It took three months of mining and a week of selling before their economy was once again flourishing. And it was all thanks to their saint.
"But you didn't have to tell anyone that it was me." Hinata was throwing a fit upon the clergy's discovery of their secret meetings. He had to deal with the punishments alone since Oikawa was too busy running the river mines and funding the armory works which included and was not limited to lengthy hours of fasting, prayers and house arrest. As if he wasn't caged in his quarters enough.
"You wound me, my little songbird. I give credit when it is due."
Hinata huffs. "Then I suppose I can get a reward out of this, at least?"
Oikawa was reluctant but he does owe the saint a favor or two, considering this wasn't the first time Hinata whispered small suggestions that played a big hand in Aoba Josai politics. So when the saint asked to be let out of his cage just for one night to see the lantern festival, then who was he to say no?
They've discarded their titles for the night as well as the clothes that defined their status- no Grand King Oikawa or Saint Hinata, no jeweled crown or white cloaks. Just Tooru and Shouyou admist the merry common crowd as they stuff their stomachs full with greasy food and ale, shop meaningless but pretty trinkets and dance silly for all the town square to see.
It was ludicrous but Tooru at that moment wouldn't trade it for anything else in the world.
There was a chess tournament established by the rose gardens, filled with spectators of different classes but rendered each other equals in the game to play. At Shouyou's insistence, the two signed up to compete for one round, turned thirteen as Tooru claimed his wins by a storm. The ginger-haired man lost after four games but was not sullen at his
lover partner companion's friend's victory. So he rewards him with a kiss.
It wasn't the first, or the second, just a kiss amongst the many countless ones they've shared. But tonight, it was the most intimate Tooru's ever experience. Sweet, searing and just swelling with love that he was almost tempted to take Shouyou there and then all the way. Almost.
The night ends with the two standing at the town's corner, a lantern lit by blue flames held by both hands before they release it into the air. Shouyou's eyes were filled with wonder as he takes in the starry sky filled with more lights dancing in the air as it disappears into the midnight abyss.
Oikawa leaves his songbird for another six months. Two of which were spend travelling back and forth the borders and four caught up in Karasuno's politics.
As it turns out, Chikara Ennoshita, the bastard and coward son of Sawamura decided to return with a bold claim to the throne. The entire heir tournament was thrown in disarray with House Kageyama and House Tanaka walking out in anger and Oikawa's plans for Seijoh's
pretend interdependence thrown right out of the window. They were already providing armory for the war with the orders halfway done as they wait for Kageyama to secure their little spot within Shiratorizawa's umbrella. Both parties were going to lose more than they've given.
And so Tobio Kageyama disappears for awhile and Oikawa begrudgingly represents on his behalf.
"Clearly this is will cause an outrage amongst the masses whose betting pool is heavy with gold from the tournament, as well as an insult to the prominent and honorable houses of Karasuno." Oikawa repeats the same content of the speeches delivered for the nth time of day in hopes that Sawamura punishes his son's incompetence, not reward it. "Might I remind you that my older sister, the duchess of Kitagawa Daiichi, is also one of the supporters who invested in your games. Should you chose to crown your bastard under unjust grounds, then you will loose not only your own people's trust but Seijoh as well."
Sawamura looked grimmer from the new threat and Oikawa pushes further. He did always have a knack when it came to exploiting his enemy's weaknesses. It got him the throne, the religious sector under his boot and Hinata in his clutches. "Proceed with the tournament." the Grand King orders.
But just as Karasuno's king was about to concede, a shadow of doubt passed by. It was cold, like a piece of thin knife pressed against the back of Oikawa's neck to silence him. Cautiously craning his neck, his eyes met with predatory hazel ones paired with a sweet smile. It was him, the one who had the tipped the balance of the royal succession line and led the conquest against Nekomata to take their lands. His fortitude was hailed from kingdoms across as the Indomitable Queen of the Tengu Clan- Koushi Sugawara.
On another day, Oikawa could picture sipping expensive wine with Sugawara as they watch the busy world go by from the High Gardens. They were very similar in a hundred ways after all. Both were sly, strategy-smart than powerfully brute, and had clawed their way to the throne despite the difference in their lineage. While Oikawa was selling sex and sin his country, Sugawara was marrying people of his court for alliances.
Days like these however, the Grand King had to double check that his wine wasn't poisoned.
"And we are eternally grateful for the support you have provided our champions. However, we cannot just deny black blood, especially for the likes of Chikara-kun who was the sole and original heir."
"He has relinquished that right when he chose to ran away under pressure." Matsukawa speaks up and his king was grateful for his diplomat's brazen nature. The counsel murmurs in agreement but the queen was not fazed in the slightest. Oikawa doesn't understand why he was protecting and vouching for a bastard who wasn't even a relative to him in the first place. Sure he had a hand in raising him, but that doesn't equate total accountability right?
W R O N G
Sugawara chose to compartmentalized Oikawa instead. "I'm sure you of all people knows what its like to carry the burden of your kingdom at a young age."
"Are you patronizing me?"
"Not in the slightest." He makes his way and plants a kiss on Sawamura's cheeks, unabashed at the public display of familiar intimacy. "Chikara-kun wasn't included within the line of succession up until two years ago. The poor boy grew up in a less than fortunate environment but he was a hard worker. Wormed his way into the militia, participated in countless battles that could've taken his life and had even volunteered to serve at the Night Watch. He has fought tooth and nail to get where he is right now. A natural born leader." The counsel quiets down, now on edge of their seats. "But one day he wakes up from a bucket of cold truth that he wouldn't be leading a battalion of freedom fighters anymore but an entire kingdom. I think it's understandable that he got overwhelmed."
Oikawa seethes. It was a dig at his pride, an outright comparison to the fact that he was groomed to be a king while Ennoshita was born to be one.
"The tournament welcomes any competitor so long as they qualify with the prerequisites, the main one having a single drop of black blood running through their veins. And well, Chikara-kun definitely takes the lead on that one." There was a twinkle in his eyes. "So if immediately crowning the rightful heir is what we're all worried for, how about we give him a fair chance? Let him compete too."
"It's already been four challenges down-
"-and six more to go. I say the odds are still in his favor." Sugawara beams, sweet and all genuine, as he single-handedly won the counsel's favor while the rest of the House Champions slumps in resignation. All except Oikawa who managed to put two and in two as he unravels the real intention of the entire tournament. It was a fucking bait. A bait for Ennoshita to come out of his shell and Seijoh would be the unexpected casualty if their horse didn't win the race. Had Oikawa predicted this earlier then he would've withdrawn his support for Kageyama and find other ways to repay his life debt and get Shiratorizawa out of his face.
But the damage was done. Sugawara was a snake disguised in black-feathered robes and rich, velvety smiles. This obviously wasn't the last of his plans.
It really wasn't.
Oikawa's hand was immediately on Hinata's wrist before he roughly thrown into his cushions aligned to the newly assembled chessboard. Hinata yelps in mixed surprise and pain, turning up to give the Grand King a questioning look only to meet with the sadistic glint in his eyes.
It wasn't one of those days when he needed touch comfort, or to silence his verbal lashing with a pair of lips against his. It wasn't any of the days that Hinata could recognize but he was definitely certain that the Grand King was brimming with fury.
"Say, let's play a game, Hinata. At every piece I take from you, and you from me, you must answer a number of questions corresponding to their value. One per pawn, two per rooks, four per knight, six per bishops and ten for the queen."
Hinata obviously didn't want to play. Not because of the eventuality of his loss but the possibility of his demise should he fail to calm the Grand King down.
"A-and for the king?"
"We'll get there."
The air became thick, pressured by Oikawa's sudden and ruthless behavior combined with Hinata's nervousness. He had barely shown fear when faced with the Grand King from day one, but today was a whirlwind of cynical emotions that was going to choke the breath out of the saint. Oikawa takes advantage of his distracted state and takes a pawn.
"Question. What were you up to for the last six months when I was gone?"
The saint wills his body not to shudder for he knew that he didn't really do anything out of place. "The usual. Bathing in cold water, eating flavorless bread and praying to the gods you loathe for the sake of Seijoh's prosperity." he knocks the pawn back. "And you, what happened back in Karasuno that put you in a sour mood?" He wanted to be more cautious with his questions but he knew that he'd lose the game anyways, compelling him to use his chances at his utmost disposal.
"Nothing you don't know, I'm sure of."
"That's not fair-
"Hinata." his surname was said with much venom. "I know how thin the chapel walls are." Their eyes meet, one held uncertainty and the other conviction. "You know that Karasuno is letting their bastard child compete for that obviously rigged-tournament." Oikawa moves his knight, Hinata countered with a sacrificial pawn to avoid being checkmated it the next three moves.
So it didn't have anything to do with Karasuno, Hinata muses, but somewhere else. He had to be more specific with his choice of words should he luck out on another question if not for the brunet taking in another pawn without consideration. "Question. Who else visited you here aside from the faceless clergy and servants?"
Hinata gives him a taste of his own medicine. "The castle walls has ears, Daiouo-sama. Nothing you don't know, I'm sure of." Oikawa snarls and the saint almost sank back in fear. Almost. "You know. You obviously know. What's the point of any of this?"
"You don't get to ask the questions. You haven't earned it." Oikawa takes his bishop. "One. Was your meeting with Tobio coincidental or planned?"
"On our parts? Purely coincidental. But the people outside seems to beg to differ, says it was fate." Gone were the cautious line Hinata dared not to cross as he found himself angered by Oikawa's confrontations. It takes two to tango.
Oikawa on the other hand looked amused after getting a rile out of him. "Two. Did you do intimate things with him?" the same ones you do to me? "Did you let him touch you? Touch him back? Kiss him? See you naked? Fuck him?" each question was knife embedded into Hinata's heart, over and over again but the hurt was more ridden with anger than of sorrow. Hinata immediately stood up to silence him, both hands clutching the ends of the board as jeweled, beryl eyes stared down at Oikawa. "No."
In a flash, all the chess pieces were thrown in the air before Hinata finds himself pinned against the cold, stone walls. If Oikawa looked furious the moment he stepped into the room, then nothing could describe what he looked right now.
"They want you."
"Karasuno wants you. And apparently, they will have you."
The look on Hinata's face sent Oikawa laughing like a madman, the cruel sounds of his voice echoing throughout the vast halls even after he left.
The Indomitable Queen receives a pristine box with a lovely turquoise bow. It wasn't signed but Sugawara knew who the sender was, more so from the contents of the taxidermy dove stuffed with black, slimy liquid. It was poorly done and barely rid of its stench. The only redeeming quality it had, if considered so, was the careful carving of its chest. Probably to represent the absence of it's heart.
Kageyama retches when he receives the missing organ in a smaller satchel.
The next morning, Oikawa asks his court if they knew anything about the Oasis.
Matsukawa, who wounds up in bed with almost every foreigner he's encountered, perks at the question. He tells his king that those people had molten gold running through their veins in lieu of being solely devoted the sun god. However, it seems that they have been forsaken after their kingdom was massacred by the East Empire for their refusal to join their conquest. Burned by the very fire they worshiped and reduced to nothing but the ashes of where they existed.
"If there are any survivors, then they'd be plenty amongst us now. Probably scattered around the world looking for a new way place to call home." he eyes his king warily. "Or looking for ways to get revenge."
It should've made sense by now, or perhaps, a long time ago. Oikawa has always been suspicious of his songbird's background despite him being so open about it. There were still gaps, missing pieces of important information behind Shouyou Hinata's existence. But he never did bother to ask under the pretense that he didn't need to. So what if the ginger-haired saint's arrival to Seijoh wasn't as much as a coincidence as meeting Kageyama underground while Oikawa was away? Or that he could scarily adapt to culture in a span of months, be it language or etiquette?
So what if Hinata could possibly be of royal descent from the East?
But it was making sense now. How he whispered from the shadows of Aoba Josai's court, quipping little suggestions and immersing in conversations that could decide the entire fate of the kingdom. It was him who provided the idea of using a scapegoat should Inarizaki miraculously turn the tides of the war and amongst many others such as the tax increase exclusive to the luxury items only or the diamond rush in the sapphire rivers. They were just ideas, but behind it were cautious decision-makings that could possibly only root from experience.
The image of an angel sent from the heavens Oikawa didn't believe in melted into a condescending puppeteer thirsty to quench the fires Inarizaki started.
should've been is a mastermind in the art of schemes and politics, his person was easily buried by an avalanche of suffocating self-doubts. He grew up in the court after all, which made familiar with the power-hungry vultures that resides in it. Just waiting for him to fall and drop dead before they can feast on him. Another point that pales in comparison to Ennoshita of Karasuno who was raised with genuine love and surrounded by trustworthy supporters.
Lost in his thoughts despite the transparency of the situation starting to show, the Grand King finds himself in the heart of Aoba Josai's religious sector once more. Hinata's back was facing him, stance in a kneeling position as he prays to the Gods who won't answer him back. Oikawa often wonders what he whispers into the heavens or if everything was just for show.
He made his presence known in the only way he could- running towards the ginger-haired saint with little to no regard of his expensive clothes dampening in the spring before throwing himself at his lithe frame. He wanted to apologize. He needed to. Even if it was Hinata who owes him explanations for the many truths he has omitted. For deep inside Oikawa's wretched heart, he knew that there were still moments they've shared that were genuine.
The soft sigh that escaped Hinata's lips provided so much assurance that his insecurities just melted away into the icy waters.
Their lips meet halfway, their bodies follow.
It was messy, even for someone as experienced as Oikawa, but exciting nevertheless. They've seen each other's naked bodies before, explored and marked it, yet never all the way and past the point of no return. To defile the saint chosen by the gods equated as the heaviest sin a mortal could ever commit. Not even execution could atone for the act of debauchery. Fortunately Oikawa didn't believe in them and doesn't care if Hinata does.
And as if the ginger-haired boy was a innocent as they've perceived him. He has confirmed that now. Hinata may have the omniscient ones and all of Seijoh fooled but underneath Oikawa, desperate and begging to be fucked, that he was no saint.
The Grand King devoured him over and over again in one shameless night.
"The gods are angry." her milky eyes stared blankly into his. "They will punish your arrogance with you or Seijoh's doom."
Oikawa rouses to the sound of his lover singing to the windows as the gentle, morning light warms his room. He is greeted with the delightful sight of his songbird unabashedly naked, save for the turquoise cape that barely shrouded his lithe form. Hinata's once unmarred, sun-kissed skin was now painted with bruises that could last until the fortnight.
The saint called it reckless. Oikawa calls it art.
"You're awake." Hinata didn't even need to turn around to see the Grand King's smug expression. But he did so anyways with a pout on his flushed cheeks. It took a small number of seconds before he was pulled back into the feather soft bed for another round of their passionate tryst. But it was moments after when they bask in the afterglow of their love-making that made them realized it was time to address the elephant in the room who is Tobio Kageyama and Karasuno.
They mull over it on a game of chess and ten glasses of sweet berry wine.
Oikawa mercilessly picks on Hinata's pawns accompanied by teasing questions such as "How many times do you about me in a day?", "Do you pray more for Seijoh's prosperity or mine?", "Do you love me?" to which the saint answers in a heartbeat, should he have not been caught off-guard or be reduced into a blushing mess. Oikawa wonders where his bedroom confidence went.
For yes, he loves Oikawa Tooru. He thinks about him everyday, includes him in his prayers even if it spites both parties involved (the king and the gods), knows that meals tasted better eaten with him and his songs better sung with Oikawa listening. Hinata loves him, be it the amazing Grand King of Seijoh, the arrogant mastermind of Aoba Josai Court or the whiny, apathetic man who barges into his room without an ounce of consideration.
But does he loves him back?
"What am I to you?" He takes over the white-colored rook that belonged to Oikawa.
A pet. Songbird. Companion. Friend. Lover. "A pawn."
"Just a pawn?" There was no hurt in his voice, no malice even. For all who Shouyou Hinata could be, cruel wasn't.
"A pawn who will marry Tobio Kageyama, next in line to the Black Throne just after Chikara Ennoshita."says Oikawa. "Three days from now you will perform a lengthy sacred cleansing ritual usually reserved for royals before they wed. The exception made to you just because. A week later you will marry within Seijoh Cathedrals under the eyes of the High Priests. You will relinquish your title as the saint, and then leave for Karasuno."
The Grand King looks defeated despite the obvious outcome of their little game. In a way, he has never truly won. Seijoh will be kept under a statement of neutrality, by Karasuno's proxy and assured by Shiratorizawa regardless of what happens after the war. The transaction was smooth and clean in a mere exchange of quality armory and one Shouyou Hinta. He eats his pride and loses his songbird for the kingdom who easily turned their back against him upon not sharing their faith.
"I see." Hinata takes his unguarded knight with a rook. "That's four questions." He was smiling for this was the most he could get.
"Let's talk favorites. Food?"
"... Milk bread."
"The Day of the Blue Spirit's descent."
"The one where we lit lanterns with blue flames?"
The saint immediately covers his lips with a loud smack from both of his palms while Oikawa laughs. "That's one question left."
".... Name the one place in the world where you want to spend the rest of your life in."
Right next to your side. "The beach, probably."
"The beach? But you hate sand and you always complained about the heat-
"Shouyou." he drinks the sight of his blushing lover with the wine. "You have to earn the right to ask."
They play the game all day long, only been able to finish one round in between meals and temptation of the skin. And when the night blankets the world with only the residues of the cosmic illuminating the sky, the lovers share one last kiss.
"You're a fool." Says Iwaizumi at his king's forlorn and sulking form. "You should've made him your queen when you had the chance." It would be no trouble as Oikawa's reign was unopposed and it was considered a political advantage that could help tidy up his heathen of an image. A passionate love story that could be told as a fairy tale for the romanticists- a king whose religion was not with the gods but with the unexpected love that blossomed between him and their messenger. But the reality was that a heretic and a saint would only end in a tragedy.
With Tobio Kageyama however, the story would be rewritten in a more idealistic sense. A lone prince who found himself lost within the cathedral of a foreign country only to have an amorous encounter with their hidden treasure, a captive saint. It would start off as forbidden as Hinata was an important figurehead in Seijoh and the prince was still fighting for his right within Karasuno's line of succession. But their love was so strong they'd beat the odds against the villainous Grand King and the messy politics that kept them apart. And they lived happily ever after as Kageyama whisk his bride away in a black-colored carriage.
It was so perfect as if the gods had written their fates for them.
But Oikawa knew better. His songbird was no saint, the scratch marks on his back a proof of their first and last amorous encounter, nor was he a damsel-in-distress or a captive. If anything, he could've left his birdcage a long time ago. He may have said that Hinata was a pawn for a marriage of convenience, a dove symbolizing peace for two kingdoms, but underneath that sacred image he cultivated was a power-hungry politician. He will not be a feast for crows.
"Why Iwa-chan, even a pawn is capable of becoming a queen once they've reach the enemy's side."
Six years later and after the war, Tooru Oikawa officially abdicates and retires the throne to his nephew, Takeru. He leaves the Allied Forces to clean up the aftermath of the mess with a new king of the seven kingdoms and Seijoh flourishing in riches once more. Pleasure, money and sins without consequences maybe fleeting but it can also be a reminder of the joyous occasions life can offer was his reply to Ushiwaka's stoic face.
But deep inside, it was love that Oikawa found himself living for.
"Penny for your thoughts?"
Eyes closed, clothes drenched in the calming waves from the beach shore he has spent all afternoon sitting in but he could already tell who his visitor is, having memorized the rhythm of those footsteps like his own heartbeat. Hinata makes his way behind him before throwing his arms around the brunet's neck. Oikawa basks in the whispered words of love and adoration and i missed you's. It was infidelity in the eyes of the gods watching them but neither cared.
Once a year, on the Day of the Blue Spirit's descent, the star-crossed lovers meet on the sandy shores hidden in the outskirts of Seijoh.
Oikawa hums. ''Nothing a pretty little thing like you should worry about,'' he says and their lips meet halfway.