A Castle of Silence and Bones
for this is the castle of silence and bones
(happiness exists elsewhere)
Tokyo is under siege, the edges of the city bombarded day and night to the point where the smoke from the clouds of napalm block out both moon and sun. The city borders are shrinking at an exponential rate, and the generals all know that it will only be a matter of days - perhaps hours - before one the three invading armies wins out.
In the midst of this chaos and destruction, yet another formal ceremony - the most well-kept tradition of them all, takes place - in the name of nothing but tradition.
The procession walks somberly through the central halls, where the tapestries have been eaten by moths and the smell of backlogged excrement permeates the sealed and then re-sealed doors. It is, Yao muses, more of a funeral than a coronation. This is, after all, how all empires fall - with a shrill dying gasp, for Kiku is - like the generals - unwilling to see, even for a second, the reality of the situation.
So be it, he thinks, following the other nation, whose back is as straight as ever, whose tears have been dried a week ago, and whose uniform is as crisp and clean as the beginning of the war.
The head of the council died three days ago, visiting Kyoto, hoping to rally support. The bombs were quick, but unforgiving, and Yao loves them for that. In place of the old man, the young general who accidentally threw the nation into a war with Germany - with naïve passion all but methodically extinguished - reads the ancient texts, says the appropriate passages, skims over the blasphemous ones. His head is reverently bowed, and Yao marvels at how they all manage to retain some shred of dignity - and he disgusts himself all over again.
Kiku kneels and, with his iron hold over Yao's wrist, forces Yao on his knees, on the dirty, barely-swept, ceramic tiles.
Yao turns his head, just the slightest degree, and Kiku purses his lips but says nothing, as the custom-made headpiece (with its strings of gold and weighty jeweled decorations) is placed over his head.
The young general only stumbles once through the reading, but his wrist shakes so hard while he is placing the headpiece on Yao that Kiku narrows his eyes and falls the other - a single wasteless shot through the center of the forehead - the second the ceremony is over.
This is how used they all are to the constant carnage: no one bats an eye, and everyone returns to their respective chambers, like walking corpses, without purpose or mind.
The word rests heavy on his tongue, and he refuses to say it, wrenching it deeper on his own lips with a sneer.
It's all a sham; all for show, nothing in the world matters. It might have been his own suggestion, his generals - however few - might have been too terrified of the impending, inevitable death to protest, but still, it was not what he had wished for.
After all, how can a nation be an emperor - how can a nation be a nation without any people?
(The answer: it cannot.)
He can still smell Asahiko's corpse, even though they have already buried him, and the remaining maids have cleaned the entirety of the chamber, from end to end. It is the scent of betrayal and desperation and some ridiculous fragment of hope.
He needed to, but of course, crush it without hesitation.
"Yao," he whispers, and he hates how his voice is coming out broken.
(But he will not be afraid of death.)
Their roles have hardly been reversed; he will make certain of this, because the empire is crumbling and still he wants to win. Their roles have hardly been reversed, and yet it is Yao who is gazing indulgently at Kiku, as if it were some odd centuries prior, and he was still the weak and whimpering child.
His lips curl again, as his fingers clench onto a thick fallen lock of long black hair. Oddly enough, Yao is on the bed today, knowing curve of cheek and judging eyes and smooth, flowing fingers. Kiku inhales the scent of plum blossoms, and pretends that he cannot smell the ashes and bloodstains that come with them.
It is Yao who presses their faces together, his face looks to be uncharacteristically filled with emotions. And then Kiku closes his eyes (he does not want to see anymore) and allows his tongue to snake out, allows his mouth to open that ungodly bit, trying to taste (trying to devour) Yao in the few moments there are.
(He may be a murderer and a defiler of tradition - but he has not blind to the truth for the past four years.)
"Only you," he mutters, as his hands as sliding the robes down Yao's body once more. He nibbles and sucks, attempting to drink in every detail, and Yao allows him this favor, looping his arms over Kiku's shoulders, parting his legs and pulling the other for a softer, longer kiss.
Perhaps this is how he had always imagined it: sweet and slow and gentle; where he pressed himself, still ever so needy, but not with the same amount of rush, into Yao, truly drawing it out; feeling Yao tighten about him, feeling every stretch and pull of their muscles; letting a pleasant shiver make its way up and down his spine at the way his name was pulled, long and lilting, in the midst of a kiss.
Yao throws back his head, cheeks flushed and lips bruised - and it is the first time Kiku can remember the other truly closing his eyes, truly calling his name - with Kiku's thumbs firmly clutched on the inside of his shaking, sweaty thighs, pulling out that small inch, only to push in with more insistence.
The scent of sweat and sex is not, however, enough to overcome the odor of death and decay.
Kiku finds that he does not mind at all, biting down hard enough to taste the bittersweet eruption of blood as he shudders heavily before coming. Yao shakes as well, sparse seconds later, raking his nails across Kiku's bare back, arching and gasping and sweating and panting.
When it is all over, Kiku painstakingly takes away his hands, easily sliding out, hands already picking up the fallen garments.
Yao, for his part, merely clutches at the undersides of the pillow, chest still heaving, cheeks still pink.
"Why?" he breathes, and Kiku needs to strain his ears to make out the language that he has not acknowledged for years. Kiku blinks, because Yao has never conversed in these past thirty-or-so years - but he does not need to ask to know (immediately) what Yao is asking for.
So he fastens the final button on his flawlessly white uniform, taking two steps to clasp his fingers about Yao's wrist, placing a kiss at the center of Yao's palm - a kiss that lingers for a moment too long. His coal-black eyes meet with Yao's golden ones - for a fleeting second, before averting them.
'For love,' he wants to say - would like to explain; heart beating dully with dreams lying shattered all around him.
So he says nothing - and watches blankly as Yao pulls a handgun - military-issue, but of course (who could have given it to him, Kiku's mind is racing; a general, Ludwig, Feliciano, a servant, a maid - Asahiko) - from beneath the pillow. It is point-blank, and the most important factor of this situation is that Kiku is frozen in place and will not draw either of his two weapons.
Which is why it is relief he feels when the East Wing of the palace trembles, a booming explosion the telltale reason.
"You were a fool to wish for the world," Yao says tonelessly in his own tongue, mellow and drawling - irony in the midst of the bombing.
The blood-colored blossom numbly stemming from his chest is not able to distract him from the mockery of smile that has made its way to Yao's trembling lips. The gun clatters to floor, and Kiku thinks - in the smog of the fire and the madly dancing light of the flames - he can see a hand reaching out towards him.
The castle falls.
the failings of immortality
drown in tears and ashes
falling slowly to the earth
watch, this is beauty as it crashes.
this is an elixir of power
this is an elixir of love
take it and drink it all, my dear
for this is a gift from above.
the successes of mortality
quench their thirsts in blood
oh, all the sunshine in the world
will not halt this flood.
the gods are too far gone
to care of happenstances here
they lurk in darkened rooms
and eatdrinkbreath this fear.
this is a story of good-bye
this is a story of hello
it tells of how even heaven
acquiesced to those below.
rats are still scurrying
bats are still hurrying
but no flowers rest over these tombstones
for this is the castle of silence and bones
(Thank you so much for your endless patience and support! I will, thankfully, make good on my beginning statement for this fic - so for those that stayed with the story, thank you so much! [And maybe we'll meet up again in another fandom, with another shared pairing, wearing different masks...?] Ah, but I'm getting too sentimental...)