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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Crown Prince Yoshi - 15. Chapter 15

The Village Qi

Tai Migi loved the shadows. He found comfort in the dark where others found fear. Growing up in the palace was a fate unexpected. Tai and Zia were born on a farm, in a village not unlike the Village Qi. Located on the outskirts of the Imperial Lands. Their parents were farmers. When they were eight years old, a gang of raiders invaded their village, pillaging and murdering. Tai and Zia were out playing in the forest when the raiders reached their home. Their mother’s screams called them back.

Tai remembered running home, heart in his throat, Zia close behind him. They both gasped when they saw the horde of men riding out of their compound.

He remembered Zia’s heart-wrenching scream when she found their parents in the kitchen. Murdered in cold blood. He remembered her tears and the deep cold that settled over his heart.

Hate had grown in his heart that afternoon.

Letting go of Zia, Tai remembered taking their father’s only weapon, an axe used for chopping wood. He had left the house determined to follow those murdering bastards and exert his revenge. He stopped short at the gate when he turned to find Zia right behind him, holding their mother’s kitchen knife.

‘Go back,’ he told her.

“To what?” Zia asked, her cheeks stained with tear tracks.

Tai had no answer to that and as he stood there wondering what to tell her, imperial soldiers arrived on great black horses, liveried in rich blues and reds. They were chasing after the raiders on official orders. Tai grabbed Zia’s shoulders and pulled her to him to give way to the soldiers.

Then one of those horses stopped, right in front of them. Tall and mighty, the rider dressed in red and yellow, different from the others, but still a soldier. It wasn’t until the rider jumped off the horse, that Tai realized the rider was a woman dressed in a man's clothes.

“What do you plan to do with the axe?” the woman asked, her gaze shifting from Tai and then to Zia, “And a blunt kitchen knife?”

Tai tightened his hold on the axe, but before he could speak, Zia stepped forward.

“Cut down those who killed our parents,” she said.

A soft chuckle, then the woman crouched before them, placing her hands on their shoulders. She studied them for a minute, and then gave a quick nod.

“It is decided. We will help you get your justice.”

The woman rose, and lifted them both, placing them on her horse. Tai remembered feeling dizzy at the height. Then she set the horse into a fast race, following the soldiers. The imperial soldiers caught up with the raiders right at nightfall. The ensuing battle turned into a fright, neither Tai nor Zia had ever seen war. The woman on the horse kept a distance away, letting the soldiers round the raiders up.

When the surviving raiders were subdued, she moved her horse closer then, and declared.

“You vagrants dare terrorize the Imperial Lands; cause the people to suffer injustices, and grief. We cannot stand for that.”

“What’s wrong with making a living?” one of the men kneeling asked. “Who are you to judge our way to survive?”

“Must your way to survive bring pain to others?” she asked.

“We always ask before we take,” the man said with a soft chuckle. “Those who give without a fight face no trouble. Those who don’t—

“Why did you kill our parents?” Tai felt compelled to ask. “They never hurt anyone. Why?”

“You’re the little ones from the rice farm. Your father kept asking us if we had taken you. He wouldn’t calm down, so we shut him up. Your mother tried to stop us—

“Enough,” The woman behind Tai ordered, her grip on the horse’s reins tight. The word heavy with such authority, that no one dared breathe too loud.

She jumped off her horse with elegance, making sure Tai and Zia remained perched safely. She gave Tai a simple smile, and patted Zia’s trembling hands. Tai remembered watching her get her golden sword from its sheath around her waist. She walked with purpose to the men kneeling on the grass, surrounded by soldiers.

She stopped right before the man who had spoken, her sword held at her side.

“You have taken lives, caused untold pain to hundreds of people in the surrounding villages. You show no remorse for your actions. What comes to you is a result of your own efforts. Do you understand this?”

“Who are you to judge us?” the man asked, looking up at her.

“I am tasked to protect peace and justice in the Empire,” she said, then looked at the soldiers standing around the men. “Hear this order; these raiders are to work in the Fier Iron Mines for no less than ten years. Deliver them to the Empire’s Minister of Labor.”

“Yes, Your Majesty,” the soldiers answered.

Tai remembered the shock on the raiders faces. The shame that ran over the man who had dared talk about killing their parents.

“Your Majesty,” the man said, when one of the soldiers pulled him up. “Please kill us, please, don’t send us to the Fier Mines, please.”

His protests went unheard, and the woman turned to look at Tai and Zia. Tai remembered being struck with awe, but not fear.

“Was that good enough?” she asked, when she reached them. “I know nothing will bring back your parents, but their killers are brought to justice.”

“You should have killed them,” Zia said, anger in her voice. “What if they escape the mines? They might, you know. Then what’s the use. How is that justice?”

“You will not speak to Her Majesty this way,” One of the soldiers nearby chastised.

She gave the soldier a hard look, and he stepped back quickly.

“Girl, you are a blood thirsty one.”

“Why do they call you, Her Majesty?” Tai asked.

The woman gave a delighted laugh and removed the leather gloves she wore.

“Oh, how rare this is. I forget the villages often forget the doings of the Imperial class,” she said. “It is not often I get asked this question, young boy. I have neglected to introduce myself. My name is Almira Taimeng, tasked with the heavy but interesting task of guarding the Empire as Empress.”

Almira held out her hand to Tai.

“Very nice to meet you. What about you?”

Tai took her hand and smiled.

“Tai and this is Zia, my twin sister.”

“Twins,” Almira smiled. “Do you have other family, Tai and Zia?”

“No.” Tai answered, squeezing Zia’s shoulders.

Almira held his hand tight for a moment then turned to Zia.

“The Fier Iron Mines are deep in the valleys of Fier. Forged by molten fire, and burning rock. It is hot and tiring. Those who work the mines work long hard days. No one willingly subjects themselves to that kind of hard labor. Taking the raider’s lives would be swift justice: it would be merciful. Having them work the mines, even for a year, will have them regretting their past. Do you understand my reasoning, young girl?”

Zia held Almira’s gaze for a moment, and then slowly nodded her head.

“If they escape, I will know. Then, I will mete out fast death with my imperial sword,” Almira said, touching Zia’s cheek. “If we are agreed, then what do you say if I take responsibility for you?”

Zia looked at Tai for confirmation. Since they had nowhere else to go, they both nodded agreeing that Almira, Empress of Amana, seemed a viable option.

Almira laughed then and swung up behind Tai.

“You’re going to love it in the palace. You will meet my son, Yoshi. He is even more stubborn than you, Zia. I think you’ll get along very well.”

Now, on a very early morning, even before the birds woke, here they were, in a village that reminded Tai of home.

Tai adjusted the hood he wore over his head, his gaze sliding to the young man walking ahead of him in deep green merchant robes.

Stubborn was a simple word to define Yoshi’s wild nature. Yoshi would have done well living in the middle of a forest, communing with the untamed. Unfair description of a royal, but it was hard to change Yoshi’s mind once he was on a set path.

Tai imagined the stubbornness came from the royal blood running through Yoshi’s veins. A legacy bestowed by the ancient great warriors of the Taimeng house. One would think growing up in the most cultured environment in the empire would curb it, but that had only refined it.

Refined stubbornness…Tai sighed.

What a pain.

In the end, Yoshi did what he wanted, when he wanted, how he wanted, making the job of keeping him safe during a war the hardest in the world...annoying Prince.

Tai sighed.

Still, it was very interesting that no matter how much Tai loved the dark, the light that was Prince Yoshi continued to burn bright and call to him like a moth to a flame. He loved Prince Yoshi, as much as Almira loved Yoshi. He couldn’t help it. He had grown up in the palace, cared for by Yoshi’s mother, lacking for nothing. A brother to Yoshi in every sense, except for the royal blood.

This love pained him now, as he knew that the Prince had found someone he wanted to keep. Why it had to be Lord Midori, Tai couldn’t understand. Why did it have to be someone the Empress refused to accept into the palace? Someone who might have to meet his end on Tai’s sword.

Tai sighed again.

“You don’t have to show your displeasure so loudly, Tai. I know you’re not happy about me being in the village.”

“My Lord,” Tai said, pained by these words too.

They could not name the Prince as he was now traipsing in the middle of the Village Qi, with only Telia and Tai for guards, pretending to be a merchant’s son.

“The tortures on me she would device for these grievances you face.”

“Join hands with Sando, I fear you would have much to discuss.”

“A joke?” Tai asked, stealing a glance at Yoshi. “Is this funny to you, My Lord?”

“I’m simply taking a stroll in the very early morning, in a quiet friendly village.” Yoshi met his gaze. “You’re the one sighing like an old woman. Perhaps we should send you back to your bed.”

Tai sighed again, and watched Yoshi clasp his hands behind his back with a grin. The Prince looked too excited playing this role. Then again, the Furian walking beside Yoshi was enough to give Yoshi confidence. She was glorious in her red skirts, and the two swords on her back. She never made any effort to hide what she was. Furians rarely did. Not even to keep polite company. Telia would be perfect in the palace.

Tai smiled at this thought.

“The village elders are wary of the Fier officials,” Telia said, bringing back focus to their purpose in the village. “It took a lot of effort to convince them to make a stand. They insisted on meeting you first. Please bear with us, My Lord.”

Yoshi shook his head.

“The Village Qi is one of many to have no heavy dealings with the imperial class. My mother prefers it this way. It breeds peace. These people live quietly; having the Fier rebels here must have frightened them. Talk of a Prince from the capital coming to save them, is almost like a folk tale. Their only goal is to protect their families. I don't mind this simple walk into the village.”

“Very well, when we reach an agreement with the elders, you are to return to camp, My Lord,” Telia said, her tone enough to make Tai envious as Yoshi started no argument with her.

“Yes. Then what do you plan?” Yoshi asked.

“I have three men following each of the officials,” Tai said. “Ready to act as soon as we have an agreement with the village elders. Once the officials are subdued, we will take control and the Village Qi will be back under imperial protection.”

Yoshi nodded, and followed Telia into a tea house using the back door.

Tai stopped at the entrance, his gaze on the surrounding buildings. His job was to make sure no one knew this meeting was taking place. Closing the door after Telia and Yoshi, he pulled out an old axe from a belt on his waist and started a patrol.

***

The tea house was warm, thanks to a vibrant fire burning in a large pit in the middle of the main room. Yoshi was grateful for it, walking straight to the tables closest to the pit. His body was still acclimating from moving from the heat of Dwind to the cool days in the Imperial Lands. Taking a seat at a small round table, Yoshi rubbed his hands together, to keep warm.

Telia stood at his back, and she touched his left shoulder when footsteps shuffled in from the kitchens. Yoshi sat still as fifteen men and women moved to sit on benches closest to his round table.

His gaze settled on an old man who went to stoke the fire, poking it with a long stick resting on the side of the large pit.

Yoshi turned right when Telia shifted, to see a young man standing a few feet away.

“Would you like a cup of tea?” the young man asked.

Yoshi smiled, knowing refusing would be a bad start to this meeting. He nodded and Telia sighed. Sando had warned her to make sure he does not eat or drink. Yoshi hid another smile and faced the curious weathered faces watching him.

Yoshi rubbed his hands together.

“Nothing like tea to warm the bones. A thick mists falls over the Village Qi and it is cold.”

The young man who had offered tea hurried back to his table with a tray with two cups and a steaming teapot. Telia took the cups from the young man and poured the tea herself.

Yoshi’s gaze rested on the old man still by the fire. He watched Telia discretely taste the tea, before she pushed the cup to Yoshi.

“The Furian promised us a Prince,” a woman in the group stated. “We risk a great deal allowing a plot to overthrow the rebels in our midst. We cannot survive without the Imperial Prince’s protection. Why do you now bring us a merchant?”

Murmurs filled the room; Yoshi listened without protest, sipping his tea with relish. It was hot, and sent the chill of the morning away.

“What can a merchant do for us without an army?” one of the men grumbled. “We’re better off pandering to the Rebel officials.”

Telia stepped forward ready to defend him, but Yoshi stopped her with a single glance.

“Would you have preferred an army storming into the quiet of your village in the early morn?” Yoshi asked, sipping tea with casual grace.

“How else is a prince supposed to help us?”

The question came from the old man standing by the pit.

Yoshi chuckled.

“Have you ever met a Prince?” Yoshi asked.

“No.” The old man grinned. “But I have heard that the Imperial Prince is weak and coddled by his Empress Mother. We wonder how he could protect us.”

Telia’s grip tightened on her sword, and Yoshi gave her a warning glance.

“What is your name?” Yoshi asked the old man.

“Wu,” the old man answered.

“You’re the Village Qi’s Grand Elder.” Yoshi guessed.

The man answered with a single nod.

“Elder Wu, do you run the Village Qi on gossip, or truth?” Yoshi asked.

“Truth,” Wu answered.

“Fair enough,” Yoshi nodded, sipping his tea. He placed the empty cup on the table and pushed it away. He didn’t want Telia tasting for him.

Yoshi stood then and moved around the table until there was nothing blocking him and the elders of the village.

“Truth is important,” Yoshi said. “The Rebel Officials in your village are taking supplies from you, and sending them deeper into the Imperial Lands to support Namik of Fier. Your village cannot sustain this bleed in resources. Your stores empty faster than you can fill them. Am I right?”

The elders stared at him with blank looks for a moment, and then gave reluctant nods.

“Any young men able to hunt and till the land are gathered and sent out of the village.” Yoshi leaned on the table behind him. “How many have returned in the weeks since the rebels entered your village?”

“None,” one of the women said. “My grandson was responsible for harvesting our land and that task has now fallen to my daughter and her younger child. We are worried for him.”

“And what of taxes to the Empire?” Yoshi straightened up and folded his arms against his chest.

“They have tripled,” Elder Wu said. “The villagers are not able to keep up, we manage to hide those who cannot pay, but it is getting harder.”

“These are the facts,” Yoshi said then. “Your village needs relief. An Imperial Prince, even a weakling, will mean your taxes returning to normal. Your stores remain yours and your sons might be saved.”

“Might be?” the women asked, horror in their eyes. “Why might?”

“An Imperial Prince can only promise to do everything he can to protect those he can. We must also remember that there is a war beyond the Village Qi and that the tides of war are unforgiving.”

“Will the Village Qi survive an Imperial Prince’s war?” Elder Wu asked then. “Can he promise to bring peace back to us?”

Yoshi dropped his hands to his side, fingers curling into tight fists, he held Elder Wu’s gaze.

“The Imperial Prince will make that promise on his life and that of the Empress’s life. Peace will reign once again in the Empire.”

Elder Wu studied him for a long time, before he nodded and gave Yoshi a slight smile.

“Why does a Prince pose as a merchant?” Elder Wu asked.

Yoshi met the curious gazes on the other elders and grinned, startling them.

“Isn’t a Prince a merchant too?” Yoshi asked. “A merchant of villages and Quads, negotiating the way to peace. Don’t you agree?”

“Are you saying he is the prince?" One of the men asked. “Are you really the Prince?”

“Haven’t you noticed,” Elder Wu said, pointing to Telia. “She won’t let him drink tea without sipping first. She shadows every move he makes, and almost stabbed me for calling him a weakling.”

“I just thought she really liked him,” one of the women said, making Yoshi burst into a laugh.

He laughed so hard, turning to Telia, her gaze caught between irritation and amusement. When he kept laughing, she reached for his cup and poured tea. She sat down and tossed the tea back in one gulp.

“You’re strange for a prince,” Elder Wu said, finally moving away from the pit. “Not at all what I expected.”

Yoshi wiped tears from his eyes and moved to sit next to Telia. Now that the ice was broken, Elder Wu joined them at the table and the rest of the elders relaxed. Discussions into the agreement started and Yoshi drank the pot of tea with Telia’s help without pause.

Two hours to midday, the Head of the Black Guards entered the tea house alone.

Telia and Tai Migi were moving on their plan to subdue the rebel officers. Yoshi had opted to remain at the secure tea house so as not to delay their schedule.

Elder Wu moved away to give him privacy when the Head of the Black Guards came to Yoshi.

“The Army?” Yoshi asked, meeting dark eyes.

“All is well. You asked that news of the Dark Rider come to you first.”

Yoshi placed the cup of tea he held on the table. Everything inside him still, bracing himself.

“A request to meet you away from prying eyes arrived from one of Lilind’s sons. The location is an abandoned hut an hour’s ride from here. I advise you to decline the request, with the army so close to moving, such a meeting would raise suspicion.”

Yoshi stood, pushing the chair back too fast. He glanced at the clothes he wore and cursed. The merchant robes were sufficient for an easy stroll through a village but a hard ride required—

His concerns disappeared when the Head of the Black Guard held up a black bundle.

Yoshi took the bundle and met the man’s gaze.

“I figured you would need them despite my sage advice,” the Head of the Black Guard said.

Yoshi patted his shoulder and hurried away to the first empty room he could find to change. It took him a few minutes to get the dark tunic on, pulling on the overcoat with shaking hands. Grabbing the heavy black cloak, he pulled it over his shoulders, covering his head with the hood. He left the merchant robes on the bench in the empty room, and hurried out.

Elder Wu and his fellow elders paused when they saw him start to head for the doors. Yoshi forced the urge to run out under control and faced the elders.

Head of the Black Guard handed him his gold sword, and he clasped it tight.

“We must attend to the army,” Yoshi said to Elder Wu. “Your Village Qi will remain safe, Elder Wu.”

“Thank you for your promise, Your Highness,” Elder Wu said, and then dropped to his knee. “The Village Qi is one with the reigning Imperial House.”

Yoshi bowed his head in respect when the other elders moved to mirror Elder Wu.

“Please rise,” Yoshi said, sliding his fingers into black leather gloves. “The Phoenix Army Generals will provide guidance as the army moves through your village. Assist them with what you can. Glory to the Empire.”

“Glory to the Empire,” the elders replied getting to their feet.

Yoshi left them with one last glance and allowed the Head of the Black Guard to lead the way out of the tea house.

A black stallion waited for him. Yoshi did not hesitate to mount the warhorse. Senbon was too recognizable for a covert ride. The Head of the Black Guard led him out of the Village Qi using back roads, quickly stealing into the forest surrounding the village. Once they were away from the village, Yoshi turned to look at the man he trusted with his life.

“One,” Yoshi said, slowing his horse for a moment. “Did the messenger bring you a letter?”

“No letter, Highness.”

Yoshi nodded, leaning low over the black to avoid a series of branches. He urged the stallion into a faster pace. The horse responded without hesitation, it moved with elegant and strong powerful strides. Yoshi held on, eager to get to Midori, anxiety and excitement racing through his veins.

***

Midori stoked fire in the kitchen in the back of the hut he had found two days ago. Chicken boiled away in the pot Lenoth had found on the shelves. The rice was ready and already in a bowl on the table. This would be his first hot meal in days. He sipped tea from a small cup, his stomach growling in anticipation.

A low whistle broke the silence of the forest. Lenoth alerting him they had company approaching. Midori dropped the fan he was using to stoke the fire on the table. He hoped it was Yoshi, but caution was important. He now had enemies on both sides of the war.

Midori opened the front door and hid behind it, watching the newcomers ride into the small compound. Two men with dark hoods over their heads, riding on dark horses. Hard to tell whom they were. Disappointment filled Midori, as he missed Yoshi’s Senbon. The gorgeous horse that carried his heart. He had dreams of watching Yoshi riding to him on Senbon.

One of the men jumped off his horse, and stood in the middle of the compound taking in the thick forest around the abandoned hut. A small shift, subtle, but enough for Midori to glimpse a gold sword handle.

Yoshi.

Midori couldn’t help the smile that curved his lips.

Yoshi removed his gloves and walked up the old steps to the open front door. He paused, turning to look at the Black Guard still on his horse, now holding the reins of Yoshi’s black stallion.

“I’m safe here,” Yoshi said in a low tone.

“We must return to camp by evening,” the Black Guard reminded Yoshi. “Otherwise, and your absence will rouse suspicion.”

Yoshi nodded once, and then stepped over the threshold and into the hut. Midori pushed the door closed and grabbed Yoshi by his cloak, pulling him into his arms. He wrapped Yoshi tight in his arms, burying his face into Yoshi’s shoulder, breathing him in. He closed his eyes when Yoshi wrapped his arms around him too.

“Midori,” Yoshi murmured, his voice naked with emotion.

Midori smiled, happy to hear Yoshi’s voice, and not that of the Prince calling him Lord General. Nightmares filled him at the thought of Yoshi keeping up that unbreakable wall between them. They stood in place for a long moment, not moving, simply holding each other. Yoshi trembled slightly and Midori pressed a soft kiss on his temple.

“I’m well,” Midori soothed, his lips against Yoshi’s ear. “You must be hungry. Come, I’m cooking.”

“You’re cooking?”

“I do cook.” Midori let go of Yoshi and took Yoshi’s hand in his, tangling their fingers. “You’re the one I’m sure doesn’t know how to boil water.”

Yoshi followed him without hesitation, his dark cloak sweeping the floor. Midori paused to unclasp it, carefully lifting the heavy fabric to place it on a rickety chair. Yoshi was in a simple dark tunic and overcoat. His hair held tight on top of his head with a simple silver clip. The urge to dig his fingers into the soft silky strands was strong. Strong enough for him to consider keeping lunch until later…then Yoshi’s stomach growled and he met mortified brown eyes.

Yoshi touched his stomach, blushing slightly.

“I came running when I received your message. All I’ve had today was tea…there was no time—

Midori kissed him then. A hungry kiss full of promise, it had Yoshi breathing hard when they broke apart. Midori stroked a finger over Yoshi’s jaw, and then led him into the kitchen where the stew boiled away.

Yoshi helped Midori arrange bowls on a very old but clean table. The chairs on each side of the table looked repaired. Yoshi refused a cup of tea when Midori offered, and instead sat on one of the chairs watching Midori carve the cooked chicken into pieces.

“I spent the morning catering to village elders who have no idea their precious peaceful existence is created by the imperial government.” Yoshi sighed and leaned his elbows on the table. “They called me a weak prince and reminded me of you when we first met.”

“Are you trying to insult me, Your Royal Highness?” Midori teased.

Yoshi frowned, and Midori brought the food to the table. He braced his hands on the edge of the table and met Yoshi’s troubled gaze.

“Yoshi,” he said deliberately. “I’m only teasing you with your title.”

“It’s been ages since anyone called my name,” Yoshi shook his head, staring at the simple bowl of rice in front of him. His gaze filled with shadows.

Midori took his chair, placing it right beside Yoshi. He sat and reached for Yoshi’s chopsticks.

Taking a small piece of chicken, he brought it to Yoshi’s lips and smiled when Yoshi met his gaze.

“If you don’t taste it, how will I know how good my food is?” Midori asked.

Yoshi stared at him, and then leaned in to take the chicken into his mouth. He chewed the chicken and swallowed, holding Midori’s gaze.

“How is it?” Midori asked.

Yoshi took the chopsticks from him, and blessed him with a smile. “The best chicken I’ve tasted.”

Midori grinned.

“Great, I’m starving.” He pushed the platter with the chicken pieces closer and picked up his own chopsticks. “Eat up, don’t be shy. I cooked enough because I wanted to have a meal with you, Yoshi.”

The tension drained away from Yoshi’s shoulders, and he relaxed, picking up his rice bowl. He shifted to Midori, talking about the elders he had met in the morning in the Village Qi. Midori watched Yoshi, more than he listened. His heart heavy at the thought of not returning with Yoshi on this great quest to the Capital. He had wanted to be by Yoshi’s side so much, that it hurt to breathe without him.

“Midori?” Yoshi leaned closer, his brown eyes peering at him. “What’s wrong? You’re far away from me.”

“I’m right here.” Midori reached for his cup of tea and took a sip. “How is Sando? Why did you not bring him with you?”

Yoshi studied him for a moment, and then placed his half-empty bowl of rice on the table.

“Sando is in charge of ordinance. I might have a great army, but there are factions within. Everyone has an agenda. I needed an impartial man in charge of supplies. Otherwise, there is no telling what Lady Tinya of Terra would be up to.”

Yoshi gave a heavy sigh, and turned to look at him.

“Midori—

Midori closed the distance between them, his lips covering Yoshi’s in a needy kiss. He dropped his chopsticks on the table, and shifted so that he had room to pull Yoshi from his chair on to his lap. He didn’t want to think about the reasons there were factions in Yoshi’s army. Or why they had to meet in this hut in the middle of an untamed forest. No, he preferred to rediscover the taste of Yoshi’s lips, the heat of his mouth, and memorize the soft moan that escaped Yoshi’s lips when Midori bit the sensitive skin on Yoshi’s neck.

Yoshi wrapped his arms around his shoulders, when Midori stood, lifting him up.

Midori carried Yoshi to the small room where he had slept the night. The blankets on the simple bed he had used still rumpled. He dropped Yoshi on the bed, following him, and taking his lips in a maddening kiss. Their time apart felt like months, instead of days. Like a man possessed, he drank from Yoshi’s lips, taking, wanting more…yet not getting enough. Fevered need took control, hands ripping away clothes until their naked bodies came together.

Yoshi’s lust-filled moans filled his senses, Midori held him tight, taking him possessively. Filling him deep, fiercely, hard, until all he read in Yoshi’s eyes was hot-blooded need for him. He reached between them to stroke Yoshi’s weeping cock, pushing Yoshi to the brink and tripping him over into a hard orgasm. The first in the wave of madness that took hold soon after.

***

Two hours later, feeling like an addict, Yoshi pressed closer into Midori’s warmth, drawing circles on Midori’s chest, trailing the tips of his fingers on Midori’s skin. Sunrays spilling through cracks in the wood painted contours on Midori’s body. Yoshi traced them, content and happy, as he hadn’t been in days. It felt like all he had ever wanted in his life was here on this bed. He smiled when his fingers trailed down to Midori’s stomach, and Midori captured his fingers in a strong grip.

Yoshi tangled their fingers, his head resting on Midori’s shoulder. He stared at their linked fingers, noting a small cut on Midori’s thumb. There were two red scars on Midori’s arm too. He wondered how Midori had gotten them, but hated to ask in this moment.

“I miss you,” Yoshi murmured.

Midori kissed his fingers, and shifted on the bed so that he lay watching Yoshi with speculative dark eyes.

“Yoshi.”

His tone sounded heavy with meaning. A deep chasm yawned open inside Yoshi and he caught his breath.

“You have something to tell me that I won’t like.” Yoshi pushed panic aside with a soft sigh. “I have known it since the moment I walked into this hut. I wonder if I can ignore it, and simply make a royal decree to bring you back with me. I need you by my side, Midori.”

“Would that please you?” Midori asked. “Having me submit to your will, is that what you want?”

“I know I want you with me. I want you beside me where I can see you everyday, and know you are safe. If we’re to die, then we die together.”

Midori hissed, cupping Yoshi’s jaw.

“Don’t talk about your dying so easily, Yoshi. That is the last thing I want to hear.”

“Then what about you? Getting hurt at will, what were you doing getting cut up like this?”

Yoshi touched the scars on Midori’s arms. He closed his eyes in exasperation. Why couldn’t he have fallen in love with a scholar, or a rich merchant’s son? Fated to love such a stubborn warrior—

“Tell me.”

Midori sighed, and then shifted away from him to lie on his back.

“I got the scars disrupting my father's supplies routes. Last night we finally took control of the largest supply route. My men will disguise themselves as ordinance soldiers and infiltrate the Fier Military Camp in the Capital.” Midori sat up on the bed, and swung his feet to the ground. “At the same time tonight, I will allow Namik’s men to capture me. As your Phoenix army heads to meet Namik of Fier, my men and I will attack from within. ”

“No.”

Yoshi sat up, staring at Midori’s back, fear sinking deep into his heart.

“This is the only way to get close to Namik.” Midori continued as though Yoshi had not spoken. “I have loyal men. They are willing to fight to restore Fier’s honor, even though they are only just over a hundred. If we’re lucky, we shall have Namik subdued by the time your army reaches the Capital. If not, we will do the most damage we can...paving the way for you.”

Yoshi got off the bed, grabbing Midori’s outer robe, he pulled it on and paced the floor on bare feet, heart racing. Turning away from Midori, he frowned. He was an idiot to have agreed for Midori to leave him that first day.

Why had he thought this would be easy?

“What if Namik decides to kill you on sight?”

“He won’t,” Midori said, still sitting on the edge of the bed. He watched Yoshi pace the little room not moving to stop him. “No matter the circumstances, Yoshi, Namik remains my father. His blood.”

“Blood or not, you have not hidden the fact that you support my house. Power changes people, Midori. Turns them. Blood is secondary in matters pertaining to the throne. Do you think my uncle is any less blood to me? Do you?”

“Don’t get upset—”

“Upset?” Yoshi stopped then, turning to face Midori. “I get upset when the bath water is not warm enough, or when I can’t find my favorite pen. I get upset then…but when my lover, my chosen partner, decides to walk into a death trap, I’m beyond upset.”

Yoshi pushed hair out of his face, digging his fingers into the thick mass, feeling as though despair would eat him alive, his gaze never leaving Midori.

“What do you think will happen if you die?” Yoshi asked. “Huh? Tell me, what do you think I will do if you meet your death at Namik’s hand?”

Midori got up then and placed his hands on Yoshi’s shoulders.

“You will defeat Namik’s army, take the throne, and heal this empire.”

“I will burn it down.”

“Yoshi, don’t say that. The Empire needs you, and you love Amana too. You will do all that is necessary to make sure the Empire is safe.”

Yoshi dropped his hands from his hair, defeated.

“What will the Empire be without you then, Midori? You ask me not to talk of my dying in battle, but you—,”

Yoshi stepped away from Midori.

“Have you stopped for one second to imagine that this Empire will be empty without you? Simply a vessel to—to—rule until the next generation takes over. I’m nothing without you.”

Yoshi shook his head.

“Nothing, Midori.”

***

2012 lilansui
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Chapter Comments

Thanks for this chapter.

Wow, nice to see them together again, although Midori plan is insanely risky. I still feel that the best way to keep them alive would be to be together all the time, Yoshi could protect Midori even against his mother,  if Midori's pride allowed it. 

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My heart breaks for Midori...knowing that he would give his life to save Yoshi and the empire, with no thanks from the Empress!! Excellent chapter!! Cant' wait for more!!:worship:

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Awesome chapter!!! Well worth the wait. I'm happy Yoshi and Midori reunited, if only for a short time. They got to talk things out, know where each other stands in terms of the fight for the empire, and also reaffirm their commitment to each other. I'm not all that happy about Midori's plan to be captured by his father; I'm with Yoshi in that sense. I look forward to the next chapter with a both a sense of nervousness and hope. 

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wow, so many emotions and the back story of the twins was really well done. all flows so well together.

 

Thanks for continuing to write and share!

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