Cowritten with DragonOfEternal. Spoilers for Night 274, be warned!


Hakuryuu sat curled against a supporting pole of one of the war tents. He'd been unable to even take his own country back without relying on anyone else. Calling in Sinbad and other members of the Seven Seas Alliance had been his last resort. Even with the loss of Judal, Hakuryuu had hoped to win the war with his first plan; without any outside influence. The Kou Empire was supposed to be his to reclaim, his to own, his to rule. He thought he'd improved himself enough to at least accomplish that.

Instead, he was nothing but an invalid, a useless dead weight on the battlefield, while the armies from Sasan and Kina fought his invaders. He had overestimated himself and he couldn't get a single, nagging thought out of his head.

'How can I ever be the emperor my country needs if all I do is fail?'

While he'd done all he could to liberate Kou, it hadn't been enough. He had made sacrifices, ones he that he hadn't necessarily made willingly, and despite that he'd still failed. He'd lost his legs in an attempt to defeat Alibaba and convert him to the right side, but that had only ended in Alibaba's death. And Judal had–

Hakuryuu's breath caught in his throat. He still couldn't think about Judal with an ache in his chest; the pain felt as fresh and raw as it had the first day. He had never accounted for this kind of loss. His legs were easily replaced, while his magi... He should have been able to prevent this. Instead, he'd lost his only equal, the only person who understood his beliefs and methods without demanding he compromise.

He shifted slightly, curling in on himself instead of against the tent support. Judal had trusted in his plans, followed them without (too much) complaint, and it had ended–

Aladdin had been stronger and more ruthless than Hakuryuu estimated. He hadn't thought that the other magi would be so willing to use a magic like that.

If he tried to block out the sounds of war around him – Kouha and Kougyoku's angry voices as they clashed with Darius and Takeruhiko, soldiers' screams of pain, his own household members clashing with Kouen's – he could almost calm down from the slowly growing panic in his chest.

He couldn't do anything to help anymore, his country was at war around him and he was just sitting on the ground and shaking. His arm was useless to him, his legs wouldn't work properly...he was drained and purposeless, the failure youngest prince all over again.

Hakuryuu didn't feel the rush of air around him, nor did he hear the surprised sounds that Kouha and Kougyoku made. He did, however, feel the jewelry heavy arms that draped across his shoulders from behind and the soft intake breath against his left ear.

"Hey, Hakuryuu. What are you doing, going and starting a war without me?"

He stiffened at the sudden closeness of someone else before he recognized the voice. He took a quick, short breath because he'd know that voice anywhere; impossible as it was, he couldn't imagine it belonging to anyone else. It really shouldn't be possible, but who else would be so familiar with him?

"Judal?"

Judal laughed in his ear. "Who else would it be?"

Hakuryuu's shoulders slumped and he nearly fell backwards into Judal. He couldn't help the slowly building rush of relief flowing through him; he felt like every bit of his world that had been knocked off balance was righting itself. Judal was still laughing and pulling him closer, leaving open mouthed kisses against his neck in joy.

"I thought you were dead," he shot back. He could hear his voice crack in the middle of it but he couldn't bring himself to care.

Judal winced a little bit at that, drawing the tiniest bit away from Hakuryuu. It was an unwelcome change, and Hakuryuu grabbed onto Judal's bangled arm to hold him close. "I thought I'd never see you again, Judal."

"Heh, what, did the idea of not having me around to help you seem that lonely?" Judal's tone filled with his usual playful viciousness. The tense silence that answered him changed that. He opened his mouth, closed it, and drew Hakuryuu closer to him. "I...I was afraid of that too." Hakuryuu shivered and glanced back. Such a tender tone was somewhat unlike Judal. "I just kept thinking about how the times I shared with you over the last couple weeks were...they were some of the happiest days of my life. And it really sucked that I was going to be leaving you behind."

"Judal–"

"So I...I couldn't. I decided I couldn't fucking leave you behind."

Hakuryuu shifted until he could sling his remaining arm around Judal's neck, pulling him down for a brief kiss before resting his head against Judal's shoulder. "Don't do that again," he said harshly. "You were an integral part of our plans and nothing worked right without you."

"Aaah, you kept going with that plan even without me around?" Judal laughed in Hakuryuu's face. "You're an idiot. I knew you'd keep going though, so that's good to know I was right."

"Of course I did! I didn't want to rely on any outside help!" Hakuryuu slumped further against Judal. "I...failed anyway, though, as you can see. I had to allow other nations in to solve my problems for me."

Judal rolled his eyes. "Of course... Jeez, Hakuryuu, were you really thinking of letting yourself lose? It would have been boring to come back to a dead king."

"I wasn't going to lose!" Hakuryuu could feel the tears forming in the corners of his eyes and squeezed them shut, shoving down his tendency to be a useless crybaby as much as possible. "But...I wanted to take back Kou alone. You know that."

Judal flicked Hakuryuu in the forehead. "I'm saying I'm glad you're alive! Even if you did have to rely on that damn idiot king to do it. You're my king, and there'd be no point in coming back to a Kou, or even a world, that doesn't have you in it."

"Oh," he said softly, reaching up and running his hand through the loose bangs falling in Judal's face. Judal had never been quiet about his want to make Hakuryuu his king, but it wasn't ever accompanied by this level of open devotion. "I'm still here. I can't die until I've finished everything."

"Yeah. Anything less would be a disappointment." Judal mirrored Hakuryuu's display of intimacy, then let his fingers trail from Hakuryuu's hair to grip his chin. "So let's go then. You and me...let's show these bastards what it means to mess with the true Kou Empire."

Hakuryuu nodded. "So fix me up. You said you could supply me with all the magoi I could need, right?"

Judal grinned and nodded. "Of course, my king."

The air around him crackled with energy and he stood, gently holding onto Hakuryuu's hand with both of his and flooding him with magoi. What did that much matter in the grand scheme of things to magi? It was a simple thing to keep Hakuryuu recharged.

Hakuryuu could feel the dull remnants of feeling returning to his false legs, and his breathing steadied as his energy was restored. He picked up his wooden arm and began the somewhat painful process of reattaching it, small vines threading into the nerves at the stump until it was in place and usable again. He gripped his spear and called on Zagan to properly djinn equip. The pieces were in place. Beside him, he could feel Judal vibrating with power, and he himself felt ready to take on any enemy that lay beyond the tents. At last, they were complete again.

"Come on, Judal, we have a country to lead."