The Children of Heart

Part 1: The Queen

In his generation of role holders, they were together through everything – from the turbulent first cycles as newly inducted role holders straight through their days of young adulthood. The one that garnered the most attention in their growing years was always the Queen of Hearts. She was the integral force that propelled the territory to be the notable power it was to this day, renowned for her beauty as well as her wise judgment. Under her reign and the King's gentle support, everything was calm and prosperous.

That time of peace changed when the Queen suddenly fell ill and died shortly afterwards.

"Why doesn't old coot understand we're not going to sell a thing to him? That crazy Hatter… even in his ailing state he still has the audacity to make such demands…"

The King sighed heavily at the thought and ignored the old Hatter's negotiations, plowing through the next sheet of paper he had to review. He usually had a high workload, consisting of finishing up any paperwork the Queen left to the last possible moment. It made him wonder why he felt more conscious that his current stack was larger than usual, that a desk close by him was disturbingly empty. He stared at the piece of parchment before him, finding himself unable to concentrate on a single word. He massaged his haggard face and fought to regain focused.

Usually he would be the one remonstrating her to finish her work, scolding her whenever she drifted into her own thoughts. He never thought he would be suffering such problems himself. He winced, and his eyes burned, the words on the pages beginning to blur.

It was the saddest part of this country, a part he never realized bothered him until now. Even after someone dear died, they all must keep moving forward. They were not allowed to look back. They were not allowed any time to mourn or grieve over the loss of their closest friends.

And that was all. Just friends.

Despite allegations and rumors stating the contrary, the Queen and he shared a completely platonic relationship. She was his closest confidante and best friend. Nothing more or less. Not that he would dream of competing for her attention. She already had too many suitors to handle. There were two that came to mind that vied the hardest for her attention…

"It's your fault!"

"No, rabbit. It was not my fault."

The King cringed at the sounds of those voices, bracing himself as he turned towards the doorway. The White Rabbit was the first to enter, blue eyes glaring daggers at the Heart Knight.

"Well you're supposed to be the knight, Richard! You should have been more attentive and called for a doctor sooner!"

Richard's expression remained cool and implacable like granite, his brown eyes narrowing into a steely leer. "Well, Oliver, you're the prime minister. I don't think it's part of your duty to flirt shamelessly with the nurses."

"It would have been a crime in itself not to admire those pretty girls in those fitting skirts, and you know it!"

"Really? Apologies that I also didn't realize that trying to bed the doctor was your way of helping her majesty recover either."

Oliver's ear twitched. That was the last straw. Richard did not bat an eye when he dodged a bullet intended for his face, when the rabbit pointed his gun to his forehead.

"Do you want your brains to be blown out of that thick skull of yours?" Oliver growled, finger sitting precariously on the trigger.

He did not even flinch when Richard unsheathed his sword and held it to his neck, his glare speaking more than simple words could.

That was the moment the King knew he had to step in.

"Oliver, Richard, it's neither of your faults. We all did the best we could. It was no one's fault that the Queen died."

Oliver flinched. Richard's stolid face softened. The two role holders glanced down to the floor and returned their weapons back to their proper places. The King sighed in relief, but felt a heavy frown form on his lips. After all, it was easy to empathize with their pain. They all lost a dear friend, an important piece of them they will never get back. The King had a feeling that her death seemed to affect the men differently. By the lost look on their face, the sad gleam in their dulling eyes, her passing struck those two the hardest.

The royal lightly shook his head and changed the subject. "I'm assuming you're both here to report the results of your searches?"

Quickly easing himself out of his stupor, Oliver crossed his arms behind his head and released a dramatic sigh. "Fruitless thus far. Who knew finding a girl with eyes was so difficult?"

Richard straightened his posture and countered, "Well it's a wonder that you can find anything when you persist to slack off or chase after anything with a skirt."

"Hey! Not anything with a skirt. Even I have standards. Don't you remember that frightening she-male that works in the kitchen? I wouldn't tap that with a twenty foot pole." He shuddered at the thought. "But that girl that works with the she-male… that there is a whole different story."

Richard released a grunt of disgust while the nobleman only sighed. Though Oliver was a valuable ally, his work ethic always bordered questionable in existence. If only his prime minister was as attentive to his duties as he was to women… Countless Heart employees and other faceless girls were victim to his womanizing ways and natural charm, countless times they were left heart broken once the rabbit got what he wanted from them. The King prayed for the day Oliver would one day put that charm to the benefit of their territory, but the chances seemed slimmer when he heard of the rabbit's conquests, when he put in more energy flirting with the pretty Queen than finishing his share of the paperwork.

"And I wouldn't be talking, Rich. You haven't had any more luck than me." The Knight did not show a response, shrugging off his words with ease. Oliver sighed and twirled his pocket watch by the chain. "It's just the whole thing sucks. Why do we have to do this all so soon?"

"It's part of the rules. As role holders we must abide by those rules no matter what happens," Richard said, his posture straight and expression solemn, a model of the perfect knight with exemplary conduct and performance to match. His expression was always composed and unreadable. But also stiff. The King wryly smiled, comparing his ramrod posture with Oliver's more relaxed stance.

Oliver only rolled his eyes at Richard's formality and scoffed. "Rules, shmules. It's all a pain!"

"Not like you have been doing any real work lately anyway…"

The White Rabbit glared fiercely at him, attempting to melt that cold block of a knight. Before he could open his mouth to argue, a solider burst into the room.

"My apologies for coming in here unannounced, sirs," the solider said quickly, dipping his body into a quick bow.

"You should be. You just stopped me from knocking this bastard of his cold, hard horse."

"Like you could even hit me."


Richard lazily leaned his head left, dodging a bullet to his face.

"Want me to try again?" Oliver said through clenched teeth, his fingers poised on the trigger. Richard did not offer a response, his blank stare and relaxed posture causing the rabbit's ears to twitch once again.

"Please calm down you two," the King said, swiftly moving in between the two role holders before they destroyed the office.

Oliver lowered his gun with a dramatic huff, glaring daggers at the Richard. Seeing the two were relatively placated, the nobleman felt his shoulders relax and turned to face the solider. The faceless stood tensely in his place, his expression white, his hands gripping the hem of his shirt to help him try to stop shaking. After all, considering the way that the knight and the prime minister fought, the faceless servants always suffered the most casualties. The King's expression softened and he smiled.

"Now then, please tell us what you wanted to say?"

The solider took a deep breath to compose himself, forcing his hands to relax at his side. "Your majesty, we found her."

"What?" Oliver and Richard ceased their staring match and snapped to face the soldier. The King's eyes even opened a fraction of an inch upon hearing such news.

Their reaction fortified the soldier's resolve, helping him to stand straighter, more confidently. "We found her, our new queen! We finally found her!"

There was a long silence as they allowed those words to sink in. They found her, the new replacement, their new Queen of Hearts. It was the very words they thought they were ready to hear, having had a mourning period much longer than what was usually allowed in their country.

Hearing those words now… perhaps they were not as ready as they thought themselves to be.

The King swallowed a cold lump in his throat as he turned to face the other two role holders. Oliver's blue eyes were transfixed on the space before them, his ears wilting slightly. Richard only dropped his face down to the tips of his boots, his gaze hard, cold, unreadable. He knew he should say something to break this silence, to snap them out of this daze and continue forward. For some reason, he could not find the words to speak, his mind heavy and empty as his own chest.

Oliver blinked and turned to meet the King's gaze. He smiled wryly and patted both men firmly on the backs, forcing the King to relax and exhale in relief.

"Come on you two. Enough moping. Let's go and meet our new Queen of Hearts."

They honestly had no idea what to expect from their replacement. Would she be like their previous queen – youthful, compassionate, and just? Or will be the opposite – fearsome, tyrannical, and cruel? The possibilities were nearly endless.

To say the least, this definitely defied all their expectations.

"A child." Richard's tone was flat, without any inflection, his gaze completely blank. "Our new queen is a child."

"Well perhaps it would be more correct to say our new queen is a teenager," the King offered, but quickly shut his mouth. By the look on Richard's face, those technicalities did not make any difference.

The three role holders stood from a distance, out of the new queen's line of vision to observe her before their meeting. They could not believe their eyes.

"It's such a shame. It's neither legal nor ethical to tap that since she is so young!" Oliver lamented, pouting slightly at the sight.

"It isn't right to do it at all." Oliver only shrugged his shoulders with a dramatic sigh. The knight rolled his eyes and added, "If you are done ogling her, rabbit, perhaps let her see what she's getting into."

"I already said I will not be going into that at all! It's immoral by my standards!" Oliver grinned to see Richard sigh heavily, keeping his gaze focused forward. "But I would not worry about her just yet. After all, it takes more than one time of seeing you to feel the chill and shed tears of boredom, Rich!"

The knight did not indulge him further. He tightened his grip around the hilt of his sword and stalked forward, followed by the other two role holders.

"You finally arrived!" Two young maids perked up at curtsied. "My queen, the other role holders are finally here. Won't you greet them and introduce yourself?"

The young girl did not utter a single word, not even turning to face them. She kept her gaze forward, arms curled tightly around her oversized bear, refusing to acknowledge them. The maid exhaled sharply and lowered their heads.

"My apologies. Ever since she got here, she has not said very much. Perhaps it would be best to let the young majesty rest and get adjusted before…"

"My queen, it's a pleasure to finally meet you."

The young girl gasped when the White Rabbit grabbed hold of her hand, obtaining her attention.

"Allow me to introduce myself. I am the White Rabbit and your prime minister, Oliver. I will be doing everything in my power to make you feel like the queen you are."

He placed a gentlemanly kiss on her hand and conjured up his most charming smile.

Meanwhile, Richard and the King only stared.

"Please tell me that fool is not trying to do what I think he's doing…"The rabbit sent them a quick wink, signaling that he got this. Richard only groaned. "Ugh, what an idiot… there will be a day when his so-called charms fail him."

And by the looks of things, the King had a strange feeling that today may be that day. The young girl's expression was tight, her lips pressed into a thin line, her whole body stiff. She tried tugging her hand free, but Oliver remained oblivious and held on tight.

He returned to face the girl with a bright smile. "So, may the raven-haired beauty grace me with her name?"

The young girl did not say a word. Oliver did not waver and waited patiently, his smile wide and confident. Then she did something none of them expected. The girl took her oversized bear and whacked him across the face.

The knight and King were dumbstruck as Oliver stumbled back in a daze. The girl huffed and proudly tossed her head to the side, holding her bear protectively against her chest. One of the maids only stared, her hands pressed over her mouth in shock.

"Well it's about time for someone to try knocking some sense into him," Richard finally said, nodding his head in approval.

Oliver struggled to regain his poise, processing the turn of events as he fixed his hair and attire. He returned to his senses quickly when one of the maids came out of nowhere and slapped him.

"Ow, what was that for?" he whined, gently massaging his reddening cheek.

"That was for frightening the poor girl," the maid scolded him, ignoring the other faceless girl's pleas to calm down. "Honestly, what do you think you were trying to pull with that stupid act? It's not like you mean it anyway. You would only use her as you see fit and toss her aside once without a single thought once you got what you wanted." The maid exhaled sharply, fussing with the hem of dress as she tried to fight the violent trembling of her lips. "You… you're a jerk!"

With one final slap, the maid stomped away, leaving the other faceless servant in openmouthed shock. The other two role holders shook their heads.

"Oliver, please indulge us and explain what that was?"

"Hmm… Maybe a girl from two or five cycles ago? Not quite sure. It's difficult to tell them apart unless you have them in bed." Oliver probed his face, frowning when he felt it was likely red from the assault.

"Well if you only did your work like I asked instead chasing after girls, then you wouldn't be in such situations," the King said in mild exasperation.

"What can you expect? I am a rabbit and a man! I have needs!" He turned to face the remaining maid and sent her a quick wink. She gasped and quickly turned away, trying to hide her reddening face with her palm. His expression shifted into a grimace and a glarE when Richard whacked himself the head.

"Tch. Sounds like a dumb excuse to justify your debauch ways. You should be conducting yourself better in front of our new queen." Richard straightened his jacket and turned towards the girl. "Your majesty, please ignore this immoral man. He is not anything you should waste your time over."

"Hey, that's rude! Don't malign my good name in such a fashion!"

Richard ignored his cries and kept his gaze on the girl. "I am your Knight of Hearts, Richard," he deadpanned. His expression was cold and blank as granite, his eyes piercing into her own.

The King frowned. After all, those who were not used to being around the Heart Knight would find his impassive, somber countenance frightening. The new queen was no exception. She paled and cringed back, his cold eyes striking her poor clock heart, shooting a chill down her spine.

"So what is your…"

Richard's sentence was clipped when a bear smacked into his face.

The King was speechless. Oliver was in awe. The Knight stepped back a moment, his impassivity breaking to show a glimmer of shock.

The White Rabbit was the first to react. "Haha! So I'm not the only one who got smacked in the face, huh?"

"Shut it, rabbit."

"At least I'm not the one who's scaring our new queen… you probably freaked out the previous one too."

"Tch. No, I did not. She most likely found young perversion and skirt-chasing ways much more annoying."

His laughter ceased, his eyes narrowing into a glare. "Well at least she liked me better!"

Richard scoffed. "In your dreams…"

Then the situation whirled into another loud argument over the past queen's ambiguous affections. The King attempted to intercede and stood helplessly to the side, trying to get their attention,but with little avail.

"You two, please! Not in front of the queen!" His quiet cry fell on deaf ears. The two men ignored him completely. He sighed heavily, walking away from them to stand before the girl. "I sincerely apologize for their behavior. It's unfortunate for me to admit this, but this happens quite a lot. Though you won't want to, you will get used to it."

The girl simply stared at him, violet eyes wide and gleaming in a way he was not sure how to identify. Considering his other two subordinate's luck, he assumed his attempt would be no better and would face the same fate. He felt his body tense, preparing himself for a plushy assault. He stood completely still for a long moment and waited.

One second. Two. Still nothing. The girl only stared at him with those bright eyes.

His body relaxed, hoping his expression did not reflect his anxiety and confusion. "Well I am the King of Hearts. What's your name, miss?"

The girl squeaked and pressed her bear to her face, trying to conceal the pinks in her cheeks. The King could only stare, wondering if he should be concerned for her or for himself. He stood their patiently, unsure what exactly he should expect.


And hearing her speak certainly was not what he was expecting. The King felt his mouth slack. "Excuse me? Could you please repeat that?"

"Vivaldi," she repeated, her voice still soft, uncertain. "My name is Vivaldi."

He was rendered speechless. Even the other two fell completely silent, staring at the girl with unadulterated surprised. She did not utter another word, pressing her bear against her lips, focusing her eyes only on the King.

Quickly recovering himself from his shock, he smiled. "Well then, it's a pleasure to meet you, Vivaldi!"

Vivaldi released a small gasp and buried her face into her bear, the reddening tips of her ears betraying her embarrassment. Such a reaction left the King dumbfounded. Why was she acting that way? Did he say something wrong? He mulled over the conundrum for another moment before he came to his own, albeit erroneous, conclusions.

"Oh, my apologies! This all must be very overwhelming for you. You must be exhausted." He turned to face the maid and said, "If you could, please take the young majesty to her quarters to rest."

The maid bowed her head in understanding and guided the girl away, her face still pressed against her bear. The moment those two left, Oliver descended upon him.

"How the heck did you do that?"

"I don't understand what you mean. Do what?" the King asked.

"You know exactly what I mean! How did you get the girl to admit her name without getting stuffing in your face?" Oliver asked, his eyes boring into the King's face, as if he could see the answer itself if he looked closely enough. "I mean I can understand that she hit that scary block of ice over there…" He ignored Richard's annoyed grunt and continued, "But she even smacked me, the most charming, charismatic, handsome man that she ever had the honor of meeting."

"Charming? You're as charming as a long-eared porcupine," Richard mumbled under his breath. Oliver chose to keep his silence and ignore him.

The King only shrugged his shoulders. "I'm not quite sure myself. I honestly did not do anything out of the ordinary…"

Richard seemed thoughtful for a moment, rubbing his chin. "Could it be that his majesty has secret talents in dealing with people despite his quiet demeanor?"

"Well maybe with the young ones. I mean after all he got a name out of her." Oliver and Richard exchanged a look, one that was so exceptionally rare, one where they actually agreed on the same things. Richard coolly looked away while Oliver beamed. "I think that makes things official! Our wallflower King will be responsible for dealing with the young new role holder!"

The King stammered, trying to process the sudden proposal. "Er, n… no. Per… perhaps that is not such a good idea."

"Really? Well then I could watch her myself. She is a bit young for my tastes, but I can see how far I'm willing to go…"

"Never mind. I'll do it."

"Wise decision, my lord," the Heart Knight said.

The King blinked, processing what he just said. Seeing the sly smile curl itself over the rabbit's lips, the victorious gleam in his eyes, the King allowed himself a heavy sigh.

'Honestly, am I not the king of this castle?'

To allow himself to be manipulated by his own subordinate and be the one ordered around... the thought only made the King sigh once again.

The rose garden was always the late Queen's favorite place to be. Whenever he had trouble locating her, he could always count on finding her there. He could understand her attachment; she was the one that made it to be the magnificent structure it was to this very day. The roses were large and vibrant just like she was, their petals a vibrant red due to her loving hands. She tried to spend every moment she could tending and spending time with her beloved roses, choosing to waste her days outdoors than sit in the office and complete her duties. It was admirable as it was frustrating.

Her favorite time to spend in the gardens, the time he had to keep a close on her to make sure she finished her work and did not run off, was always early in the evenings. She always told him that tea was perfect underneath the afternoon sun before he dragged her back inside.

He half hoped that the new queen thought the same thing.

He perked himself up from his musings when Vivaldi finally arrived, clutching her bear tightly as she took her seat. She did not utter a word, her hard gaze settled on the empty cup before her.

At the thought, the King resisted the urge to sigh as he filled their cups. Ever since his initial breakthrough, he had not been able to get much else out of her. In fact, he had a hard time just getting her to acknowledge him. Whenever he tried to approach her, she always ignored him, turning her attention to her bear. Her behavior baffled him. Just why would she not talk to him? Talk to anyone for that matter? The tea was a pathetic attempt to help ease her out of her shell and finally communicate with him… and he hoped that perhaps the late Queen's spirit could assist him. Maybe strengthen his resolve or make Vivaldi relax, really help with anything.

Thinking of it all now just felt lamer by the second, and he kicked himself for it. Honestly, Oliver could probably do something better than this… How could he think that sitting in a rose garden help with anything?

"How pretty." The King snapped his head at the sound. Vivaldi's eyes were wide and full of wonder, glittering like amethysts as she surveyed her surroundings. It was a genuine kind of admiration, a kind so pure and strong that he felt like he had seen such a look only once before, from the previous queen. He swiftly stamped down the sadness welling up in his clock heart with a nostalgic smile.

"Ah, so you like these roses, don't you?"

"Well who wouldn't? The Heart Castle's roses are gorgeous," she said in breathless wonder, her lips parted slightly to match her awe.

"Well they are yours to supervise now. I know you will take care of them," he said, meaning every word. He felt something in him relax, relieved to know she truly would. After all, roses like these can thrive only if cared by someone who genuinely loved them.

His words seemed to strike a chord with her. Her whole expression seemed to deflate, the youthful light vanishing from her eyes as something captured her thoughts.

"Mine… these roses are mine. I can look at these pretty flowers everyday now that I am queen," she said, her voice dropping an octave.

"Yes, of course you can. Any time you like," he added.

A smile momentarily touched her lips before sobering into an expressionless daze. "I really should be more careful what to wish for… you never know who you have to leave behind to get the things that you want. Now I'm alone…"

She seemed unaware that she was speaking her thoughts aloud, as if not caring if he heard her or not. She swatted at her face when she felt a tear prickle her eyes and held her bear even tighter against her chest. Those words were enough for him to understand. His expression softened as he watched her composure crack, splintering into that young girl she truly was.

"Do you want talk about your family?" Vivaldi snapped her head up to face him, watery eyes staring at him in disbelief. "I know the rules force us not to dwell on our past and focus on the future, but talking about it even once won't hurt anyone."

She only stared for a moment longer, glancing down to gaze at her reflection from the tea.

Finally she spoke. "I have a younger brother, and we are very close. We would always play around the woods, sometimes chancing our luck by the Heart Castle territory lines just so I could see the roses. We were very close, my brother and I. We were rarely separated and were always, always together… until the day I…"

The words were choked in her throat, the implications hanging heavily in the air. She buried her face into the bear, holding it so tightly that it was like it was her lifeline. He was at a loss of what to say and do. He could only imagine the various emotions she felt. It must be hard for a young girl her age to be taken away from her family, forced to participate in a game she wanted no part of…

"Well this must be what I get… for wishing I could see the flower every day. For wishing I could be queen. Losing my family," she said, her voice deadpan and serious, giving him with the urge to reach over and offer some consolation.

"I know it is not much of a consolation, but we can be a family for you." Vivaldi perked up to see a gentle smile on his face. "I know we can't replace the family you lost for this role, but I will promise as King of Hearts that I will support you no matter what. You are our queen. We have to work together to help our territory grow and prosper."

He immediately shut his mouth and regretted every word he said. Did that even make any sense? Was that too forward, too cheesy, too much? He feared his cheeks would become redder in embarrassment, and he tried his best to suppress the emotion from turning him into a lobster.

'How I wish Oliver could be the one dealing with this right now…'

He would probably know what to say or do in a situation like this.

After all, why was she looking at him like that?

Her eyes were bright, sparkling with a strange light and her cheeks were flushed red – perhaps just the sun, he thought. He was at a loss at what he should do. Did he say something so horribly wrong? Should he apologize?

"My queen?"

"Thank you."

The King only stared. After her outburst, Vivaldi made a high-pitched noise, pressing her bear tighter into her chest.

"Just thank you… for all that. I really appreciate that you said that."

The King was taken aback by her response, but allowed his lips to curl into a smile. Vivaldi squeaked and buried her blushing cheeks deeply into her bear. He was struck by a moment of confusion. "Er, your majesty, perhaps we shoulbeinging drinking the tea?"

Vivaldi peeked her head out and gingerly nodded, watching the King with a light in her eyes and warmth in her heart.

"You know, Vivaldi isn't bad looking."

At the pronouncement, he two role holders turned their heads to look at the prime ministrr. His gaze was still focused on the raven-haired girl standing below the balcony.

"In fact, she's actually pretty... if I disregard the fact that she smacked me with her bear," Oliver added, his head tilting in approval. "Yeah, Vivaldi is going to grow up to be quite a beauty."

Richard shot him a stern look. "No."

Oliver leaned over past the King to properly glare at the Knight. "Can't I say a compliment without hinting at any ulterior motives?" The knight did not respond, returning his gaze forward. Oliver huffed and snapped his head away. "Screw you, Rich. Not like I really would do anything even if she was of age. She's beginning to act too much like a spoiled queen. Trying to give me orders…"

"Even I was told to do things," Richard added, his tone bordering towards a lament.

"And to top it all off, she is even starting to use that silly royal plural! You would think was a naturally born snotty noble than some ordinary girl."

"Oh you are being too hard on her. She's only gaining more confidence in her role," the King offered gently.

Both men seemed unconvinced. Oliver pressed his back against the balcony rails and scoffed. "If by confident you mean bordering tyrannical, I will agree. She is so unlike our beautiful, humble queen!"

"Indeed. Very unlike her," Richard agreed, solemnly nodding his head in agreement.

At the thought of her, the three men fell into reverent silence, feeling a sense of melancholy wash over them.

The King managed to conjure a smile and broke the mood before it settled in. "I'm sure Vivaldi is only flexing her power because she is young and new. She will humble herself soon and be a thoughtful, temperate queen."

"Ha! I have a feeling this girl will be as temperate as a typhoon. It's only a matter of time before she ceases listening to you, my King," Oliver said.

"You're only jealous that she only listens to him and pays us no mind," Richard said, and a small pout curled at the rabbit's lips.

The Heart noble only laughed, amazed by the idea himself. It was true that Vivaldi proved to have a temper, declaring things go her way or face execution. She was a hot-blooded youth, but carried herself with a sort of poise and grace that was beyond her years, likely to strike admiration just as she struck fear. Every time she walked into a room, she exuded an aura that was different from the previous queen, commanding obedience through fear rather her predecessor's gentler methods. She was the embodiment of the castle roses - graceful and beautiful, but fierce and quick to draw blood if not handled with care.

How the King continuously handled such a force with relative ease was beyond him. Though there were strange behavior oddities, like her constantly blushing if he stepped too close to her or brushed her by accident, he was the only one that she could deal with some patience. And he still wasn't sure if that was a good or bad thing.

"So did you tell the royal pain about her yet?"

"Who?" the King asked.

"That pretty faceless girl you're seeing!" said Oliver, exhaling an exha speratede breath. "Considering that the new queen has a crush on you, she might as well know before she goes into a jealous rage."

"Ol... Oliver, it isn't like that at all. She can't possibly see me in that way." The rabbit only rolled his eyes. "As for introductions... I'll do it formally later. She's still adjusting, and I don't want to overwhelm her."

Richard and Oliver released a loud sigh, shaking their heads.

"Whatever our oblivious wallflower King days!" The Rabbit crossed his shoulder leisurely over his head and glanced down towards the queen. "Hmm... Just give her a little more time, and she will definitely grow up into a striking beauty."

"Again no, pervert. She's too young for you."

The rabbit scoffed. "Oh the age difference between her and any onr of us isn't that bad. If the King refuses to tap that in the future, I might do it for him."

"The gap is enough. Just like you were younger than our previous queen, this one is too young for you."

"Now you're being ridiculous, Rich! The age gap between me and the previous queen was negligible. You don't hear ne complaining how you or the king is older than her. Age is only a number anyway. True love knows no bounds!"

Richard rolled his eyes, turning away from the White Rabbit to ignore him. Seeing him still so calm and composed made him even more annoyed.

"Oh Rich! You're so heartless and cruel! You probably don't even have the emotional capacity to fathom my deep affections for the previous queen."

His brow rose in interest, watching Richard's fingers clench, gripping the fabric of his cost tightly. The King seemed to notice as well. He snapped his head to face Oliver, sending him a look urging him to stop. Even if the rabbit noticed, he ignored him completely. He was never one to back down on an opportunity to see the impassive knight crack. His lips twitched, but he kept his expression calm.

"Considering you're so cold, I bet you didn't even care that much for the previous queen. Definitely nowhere close to my love—"

He exhaled sharply, struggling to gather his breath when Richard tightly grabbed the collar of his shirt.

"Shut it. Shut it right now."

The prime minister was complexly speechless. Richard's face was hard like jagged ice, his eyed bright and wild with rage, shining in a way that almost froze him on the spot. His arms trembled, gripping the collar so brightly that Oliver almost choked.

The King gasped and immediately looked below. The maids understood, guiding the curious queen out of the vicinity.

"How dare you accuse me of being heartless, of not caring about her. You don't know what you're talking about. You don't understand at all!" Oliver was rendered speechless staring in awe at the ferocity in his voice, the cold, feral anger in his eyes. Oliver winced when he felt his grip tighten.

"The Queen was my reason, my purpose, my everything. Because she existed I was able tolerate this accursed role and had meaning in my existence. Now that she's gone... without her... I... I..."

The words faded from his lips. His expression softened, the light in his eyes dimming. He roughy released the rabbit and took a step back. The rabbit also made his own distance, cautiously straightening out his own attire.

"I don't know why I'm wasting my breath trying to explain such things to you. You were always so confident in your skills, spouting you could charm any girl you set your eyes on. Well I suppose that wasn't true, was it?" Oliver's expression melted away. Richard only continued, "Are upset that those acclaimed skills of yours did not work on who you wished it did, that she may have loved me instead of someone like you?"

His eyes were suddenly blazing. His ear twitched. The knight did not flinch when a bullet flew by and cut his cheek.

"Why don't you just shut up? Enough of all this talk. Let's settle this like real men, you bastard," Oliver said, pointing the barrel to his face.

"Oh no, you two please! Just..."

"Yes, this should be settled, shouldn't it?"

The King fell silent, eying Richard carefully. There was something different about him. His normally stoical eyes seemed softer, the hard lines of his feature losing their cold edge. In fact, he seemed tired, defeated, lost. Just as quickly as the expression came it disappeared, hardening back to his usual impassive veneer.

He closed his eyes and released a low scoff. "No, I wont be participating in your stupid games. You're not worth my time or energy."

"I'm not worth your...!" Oliver blustered, struggling to form a coherent sentences. His ears twitched wildly as he watched Richard turn his back and walk away. "You bastard! How dare you walk away from me! get back here!"

Oliver rushed after hmm, unleashing an angry barrage of bullets.

"Oh no. Not again..."

Still he was not able to shake this strange, sinking feeling curling at his heart. For some reason this did not feel like one of Richard and Oliver's usual disagreements. Things felt different. He had never seen Richard look like that before - so empty and so lost. He always seemed like a knight of purpose, the model of perfect poise and temper. To see him crack like that... It was disconcerting.

Yes, this should be settled, shouldnt it?


The sound snapped him out of his musings. He was all too aware of the silence, a kind of silence that only filled him with dread. There was something definitely wrong. Things were not right.

Then he felt his clock heart completely stop when he heard a loud scream.

A/N: Long time, no update? Well this is my take of Vivaldi's initial arrival as well my versions of the previous Heart Knight and White Rabbit. Since its been a very long time since I played the original games, apologies if I screwed up some details that may be canon.

Also, I'm making this a short series so expect maybe about 3 more parts after? So feel free to guess who's next.

Thanks for reading!