(1) cohort: a collection of 480 men
(2) legion: a collection of 4200 to 5300 men
(3) mora: a collection of 476 men

Blood is red, and sky is blue, and cloud is white, and sun is high. Above him Kyouya's hair is black, eyes dark and molten, grin ferocious and bloody and menacing. Above him, behind Kyouya, shines a light so divine Dino knows it is not of this world. Above him, above him, Dino sees the gods watching, he sees the gods giving him what he had wished for with such ardour.

In the close of his eyes and the swift release of his breath he feels life, fire, bleeding between him and his lover, between his soul and Kyouya's. This, he thinks, this is a perfect unity, perfect in its flawed and all-too-unlikely existence.

Sun is high, and cloud is white, and sky is blue, and blood is red.


~ with it or upon it ~

( tria )

"laughing as you bleed"

"Send me to them," Dino turns to his father the King, startling the generals with his sudden outburst. Up until now, in all political matters, he has remained quiet, in an attempt to subvert any suspicion regarding his relations with Sparta. But in this case, he cannot afford to pass an opportunity. This is his one chance to cement an alliance between the two ever-warring city-states, and Dino wants this for his people and for Sparta—and for yourself, his treacherous mind spits at him—more than anything.

"Dino," his father, astounded, faces him with eyebrows raised. "Dino, I cannot just—send you to them! I cannot simply risk the future of Athens in such a haphazard manner!"

He feels his throat constrict with the anxiety pooling in his gut and chest and mouth. But he forces himself. He calms himself, and forces himself, and reminds himself that this—this risk is for Kyouya. For Kyouya. And that is all the courage he needs.

With resolute eyes, he begins, "You need not worry. I have good relations with them; they are friends. They will listen to what I have to say." The generals scoff; they still view him as the whimsical little child infatuated with tales of heroes and gods. But he pays them no heed: "Let us not allow this situation to devolve into another war, father. Do you not think we have lost enough men? If we continue at this rate, we will deplete our strong far too quickly for the next generation to be ready and able to replace them!"

And he knows his father sees his sense, but it is hard to convince a King at odds. Dino knows this very well; he has had enough experiences with Kyouya as it happens.

Dino sits waiting with bated breath, and bows his head in disappointment when his father finally says, "I will withhold my decision until tomorrow morning. This counsel is dismissed."

He is more than well aware that he is chasing after a non-existent goal. Peace between Athens and Sparta is something so impossible no child or idiot would dream of it in any sort of fancy. The gods, it seems, enjoys watching the spill of blood upon Grecian ground. Dino does not understand it.

Why chase after death when there is life to be had? Why fight for such flimsy reasons, over such inconsequential disputes? Within the essence of war there lies no sense at all. But it is the nature of man, and as it is, it cannot be helped. Man loves quarrel, just as much as man loves himself. Dino does not understand it.

Within the last week, Sparta has advanced closer and closer towards Corinth, systematically taking one farmland or one village after another, inching closer and surely intending to make the Corinthians sweat. And sweat they do, profusely. Dino watches as the tension climbs mountain-high; Corinth expects Athens to fight with and defend them, while Athens is hesitant to spark yet another taxing war with the mighty Sparta.

Dino has not been able to visit Kyouya since a week past, and he is quickly approaching his limit. The separation threatens to steal away his caution, which would of course be disastrous, especially with the increased guards patrolling around the city. He cannot see a way out, with all paths either watched or closed. Corinth is clearly gearing for a war, and Athens is near-uncontrollably tumbling right behind its heels.

But there is yet hope. If he can get to Kyouya, if he can talk to the Spartan King—if he can just bypass these pesky guards, then he might just be able to bring about a compromise, some sort of settlement that will please both sides. It seems impossible, and by all rights, the generals and archons of Corinth and Athens are justified with their doubts. But they know not of Kyouya. They know nothing of Kyouya.

Dino himself knows Kyouya. He cannot tell the generals this, but he knows it deep within himself, and he is willing to use this knowledge to prevent another deadly skirmish in which his friends and Kyouya's men will together perish on the battle field. Perhaps they will die with pride, but they will die, and Dino thinks their lives and hearts are far too precious for that. He knows Kyouya, and he will be able to prevent this.

Or at least, he likes to think so.

He is more than well aware that he is chasing after a non-existent goal. But chase it he does anyway, and so he just keeps on believing.

The following morning, Dino steps into the dining hall to find his father already sitting there at a bare table, devoid of bread and wine and guests. There his father sits, grave in thought, beckoning him closer as he emerges from the Corinthian palace's corridors.

"Sit down, Dino," and so Dino sits, waiting (im)patiently for his father to begin.

It takes a while, but begin his father does: "Tell me, Dino, why such ardour for Sparta?"

Dino's forehead creases. "Father, it is not Sparta I am adamant about; it is Athens. I think you have misconceptions."

His father reclines against the chair and levels him with a penetrating stare, and after a stretch of pregnant silence says, "The truth, son. Do not lie to me."

He clenches his teeth. Mind working furiously, he can find no other alternative to telling the truth—and the truth is a rather unsightly thing to present to his father. He does not want to disappoint, but further than that, he does not want to lose Kyouya.

And so he is caught between trusting and distrusting his own father. Will his father love him enough to let him go? Or will this be the last time he is even permitted to speak the very name of his love, the Spartan King? His father is kind, this he knows for a fact, but even kindness has a limit—and his father is a King. Kings seem to be an entirely different breed of souls—they are kind, but ruthless; gentle, but cruel. He represses a sudden urge to throw away his mantle and settle for a plain life; he does not want to be a King, no. But at this rate, he will be, someday.

"Do not be afraid and tell me the truth, Dino," his father sighs a heavy sigh. "Despite all of this, we are still father and son. You are my blood and flesh; I will not harm you. Now tell me: have your loyalties shifted, Dino?"

Closing his eyes in an abject mixture of frustration and pain, Dino shakes his head. "No. No, father. I have told you a moment ago, and I tell you again, you have misconceptions. My loyalties still lie with Athens."

"Then why the insistence, Dino? Why the passion for Sparta? I do not understand; help me understand, my son," his father lays a hand on his arm. "I am sorry for putting you through this pressure, but you must understand—you are the future of Athens. I need to know if you are fit for bearing the burden."

Dino takes a deep breath.

"My loyalties lie with Athens," he repeats, but then he adds, "but it also lies with Sparta. Father, they are good people. They are human beings, with similar aspirations as us. I do not want more death, Father—you know I don't. Much as I adore tales of heroes and gods, I cannot bear to see lives snuffed out for such petty and inconsequential squabbles. Do you not understand, Father, or have you too been swallowed by man's want for glory in battle?"

It pains Dino to speak such harsh words to his father, but he has been asked of honesty, and though his honesty is blistering, he merely gives what is wanted of him.

His father is quieted by his assertions, but only temporarily. During his pause, the servants bring in the breakfast, and when the servants leave the hall, his father poses another question, this time infinitely more dangerous, "And apart from the people of Sparta, who do you feel affection for?"

Startled, Dino gives his father an incredulous stare.

"Do you take me for an idiot, son?" his father chuckles darkly. "I have seen how you act, Dino. Contrary to Romario's claims, you have not been frequenting the brothels of the city. No, you have been slipping out of Corinth and riding to Argos in the middle of the night, unguarded and alone. Well, putting your unforgivable carelessness aside, I will ask you again: who else do you feel affection for?"

Dino bows his head. He closes his eyes, steadies his breath, calms his pulse, and stills his thoughts. When he is settled and ready for the admonition he knows will come, he says, "Kyouya."

His father looks at him. "Kyouya."

He nods.

"This is, perchance, not Hibari Kyouya, the new Spartan King, is it?" and Dino feels a knifing pain at the tightness and desperation he hears in his father's voice. But he has been asked of honesty... "It is? It is! Oh. Oh, by Zeus, my son. The Spartan King!"

Dino smiles through his pain. "Father, forgive me, but I cannot control my heart!"

His father says nothing. They sit there, he in awkward silence, his father with face buried in trembling hands. They sit there, until Dino rises quietly and leaves his father alone, until there is nothing but trepidation settling within Dino's heart. His secret is out; now it is only a matter of time and decision.

Time and decision.

Vividly he recalls: the arch of Kyouya's back, the taste of Kyouya's neck, the burn of Kyouya's gaze, the sleight of Kyouya's tongue. Vividly: the heat around him clenching, the slide of skin on skin, the luscious pain of friction, the vicious pump of blood.

And so clearly, he remembers the lilt of Kyouya's voice, when they talk of Athens. The laughter in Kyouya's eyes whenever he utters a jest; the brush of Kyouya's fingers when they feed each other at the table. The weight of Kyouya's head on his shoulder when they sleep at night. The gentleness of Kyouya's fingers as they wash each other in the morn.

With such rich memories he is secure: Kyouya will not hurt him.

So he stands.

The gods accompany him. Dino rejoices in his heart as he mounts his white stallion and bids his father goodbye. It is midday, and the sun is at its zenith, Apollo watching over his steps as he gathers himself for a long discussion following a short journey. His father is pained to see him go, but he reassures the man with a bright and thankful smile. His father is a good man, sincere; this is a sign of faith between them, a sign that his father trusts him enough to know that he knows what he is doing.

Dino hopes he will not disappoint.

He gathers the men to follow after him, all of an entire cohort (1). The gods are with him, for he is fortunate to have dissuaded his father against sending with him the whole of a legion (2) for mere protection. It is unnecessary, he had told his father, and brings about a foul atmosphere to what is supposed to be a peaceable meeting. All things considered, a cohort is a good compromise between his need for breadth to move and his father's insistence upon security.

With all of his men on mount, he expects the ride to Argos short. Romario rides along with him, all of disapproval and admonition—but today, Dino will not listen. No; today, Dino will show them what he has invested in Sparta, and why. He will show them how his efforts are not in vain, how things will work out simply fine, because though the Spartans are bloodthirsty in battle, they remain honourable men with ears and eyes outside of it. So it stands to reason that he should keep Athens and Sparta outside of a war.

Halfway towards Argos and he sights in the distant hilltop a scout, a lookout, squinting at them from afar, and then riding away, back towards Spartan territory. He is not troubled; he had expected this. It is all the better if Kyouya is alerted, because of all things, Kyouya dislikes being taken by surprise.

In turn he is not surprised when Kyouya meets him with a full mora (3) of men on the other side of that tall and distant hilltop, where the hills are pressed into the earth flat until the short but wide expanse of a valley is formed. He had expected as much; Kyouya will refuse to show any form or even the slightest nuance of cowardice in face of an enemy's marching force. This recalcitrant attitude is only another one of the many little things he has grown to love in Kyouya's spirit.

He smiles across the short valley wherein the two of them now ride towards each other, because there Kyouya is, his Kyouya exclusively, in all magnificent and forbidding glory. The splash of red across the landscape's green-and-brown is a startling comfort to his eyes; he has indeed been influenced in more than one way. His hoplites, too, are in red, except there is more white cloth than red, because Athens likes the purity of white. He thinks this is rather ironic (at best) and hypocritical (at worst) in war.

"The Spartan army seems agitated, Your Highness," Romario is hushed and cautious beside him as they descend to the valley. He chooses to concentrate upon guiding his stallion down the rocky hillside instead of gazing at the faraway opposing army.

"Worry not, my friend; things will go smoothly, I assure you," but he is quite sure his assurance is no longer enough for Romario. Nevertheless he goes through the motions and says the words; though he was severely hurt by Romario's words a week past, Romario has taken care of him since he was but a child, and that, to him, is worth respect.

So occupied he is with his thoughts that when the roar of charge hits the air, it passes by his ears, and he only jolts into reality when his cohort line is speared into by an arrowhead surge from the Spartans. The first sword arches through the air and draws red.

Red is blood.

He draws his sword, rides to the forefront.

Today, he understands why Kyouya dislikes surprises, because though some of them are pleasant, he learns now that most of them are not. Losing Romario in the chaos, he wields his sword, down upon men and men and men.

A friend—perhaps a relative—screams for the first fallen, and charges at him. A friend—perhaps a relative—defends him and falls. Another friend of the one who had defended him retaliates. It devolves into a whirling mass of red and gold.

"Wait!" he tells them, "Stop!"

They do not listen.

And the only way to make them stop is by the cut of his blade and the brunt of his force, so he shoves his way along the jostling lines, leaves his stallion behind and goes by foot. It is easier this way, for his feet are free; but it is harder this way, for he only sees so much. He brings his sword to defend his brothers, Athenians—but he cares to be gentle and kind, even in war.

He does not understand; they had done nothing. Athens had done nothing and yet Sparta had charged. Sparta had not seemed eager for a war. Deceit is not an idea to entertain. What he had—still has—with Kyouya is true; for certain there is nothing that will change that fact.

But today, today, the gods are with him. He soon finds Kyouya, dismounted and in blood. Not his own, but Athenian blood. Dino's men's blood. In a shocking moment of grief, he has to close his eyes. Grit his teeth. Breathe deep. When he opens his eyes, more are fallen, and he is not dreaming.

Snarling and whirling in a circle, Kyouya brings down two more men. Athenian men. Kyouya does not stop until they are sword to sword. Dino pushes him back. Pushes him back with a force he wishes only to temper in the presence of his love, but today he is given no choice.

"Kyouya, please stop."

He begs, but is not heard. He forces Kyouya back; they tumble into arms and legs, the battle is a mighty struggle. They meet and part in groaning heat, backs blistering under sun.

"Kyouya, why do we do this?"

Around them a rigid link of human flesh, churning and chaotic, in war. Brothers, fathers, all in war.

"Because you and I are enemies, herbivore—why else?"

In a minute, an hour, the day entire, Dino does not know, but he wanders atop a nightmare as more brothers fall and more brothers fall.

"Stop killing my men!" he screams, but slash his blade goes at a Spartan, and Kyouya says, "Not while you kill my men!"

They are children, children, bickering and losing over such nonsense! Eventually the men, uncles, fathers, brothers, they lose their finesse of fighting and training. They take with their fists and what blade they can hold, and the brutality of man takes over full-force.

He tells them, he bids them, stop, stop, stopstopstop, but they never do, they never will. They reach for the weapon and use it to take life, pull one after the other, out of the body and out of the soul, never to come back again, the heart never to beat. Never to love.

All around the Prince there are the sounds of the fallen: roars of glory, screams of pain, cries for mercy, breaths of relief. All around the two of them there are the sounds of battle, the reason of their parting, the rift of their love. All around them, all around them, as if a piece for demonstration, Dino has before his very eyes and ears the reason for their parting.

This, Kyouya says to him, this is why we fight.

And when Dino falls he does not realize that he is laughing, and that he is bleeding. He does not know that he falls, because all he does know is Kyouya's eyes, and Kyouya's grin, and Kyouya's blade. Because all he does know is that he finally understands—he understands why men die in war.

In life there is nothing sadder than the death of an illusion.

Blood is red, and sky is blue, and cloud is white, and sun is high. Above him Kyouya's hair is black, eyes dark and molten, grin ferocious and bloody and menacing. Above him, behind Kyouya, shines a light so divine Dino knows it is not of this world. Above him, above him, Dino sees the gods watching, he sees the gods giving him what he had wished for with such ardour.

He does not feel the pain so he laughs, but the blade is deep in his stomach. He does not feel the pain so he rejoices to be in Kyouya's arms once more. His King cradles him in arms of steel, close and intimate, tender and burning.

Dino watches as red lips part, forming words he cannot hear. Kyouya speaks to tell him something, but he cannot hear. He blinks, all sluggish, and sees the tears. Kyouya is grinning, but on his cheeks are tears. Kyouya's grin, like the tears, is feral, animal, unbound. And the lips still part, forming words he cannot hear.

In the close of his eyes and the swift release of his breath he feels life, fire, bleeding between him and his lover, between his soul and Kyouya's. This, he thinks, this is a perfect unity, perfect in its flawed and all-too-unlikely existence.

Faintly, in the distance, the loss of Kyouya's heat. Faintly, in the distance, Kyouya's fading voice:

"This is for Sparta!"

Sun is high, and cloud is white, and sky is blue, and blood is red.

Blood is red, red is blood.

Black and red.



love is not a victory march

it's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah