warning: mentions and/or discussions of kidnapping, suicide (very detailed descriptions, if it makes you uncomfortable or triggers any past events then please skip chapter viii), and death.
(i.) : ave atque vale
scorn and despair, these are mine empire:
For Ushijima, there are no fond memories of Mt. Olympus—only the taste of rotten ambrosia on his tongue, his brother’s sharp, mocking gaze across the room, and the scalding brightness of the sun that leaves him longing for his pitch black kingdom below.
“What are you doing here?” a stern voice demands behind him. He hears the rustle of brass and horse hair plumes and the promise of victory in his blood. “You haven’t set foot in here for almost a century.”
“Iwaizumi.” He bows his head in polite greeting. “I’ve come here to make a request to Oikawa.”
“He’s in the throne room.” Athena points to a grand door embellished with gold statues and ivory columns at the end of the corridor. “You are aware that the chances of him granting your request is unlikely, right?”
“I am aware,” he said quietly, “but it matters not.”
“Hmm,” the god of wisdom hums knowingly, “well, good luck then.”
He passes by Hermes, who greets him with a warm hug and a firm pat on the back. “It’s my underworld bro, Ushijima! What are you doing here up in the clouds, huh? Must be some really important stuff since you hardly come up here. Anyway, check out these badass winged sandals Aone made for me! They’re like, the best thing in the world!” and asks him for a high five after which he hesitantly returns with lesser vigor, but returned nonetheless. Beside him, Hestia mutters a quiet apology for his companion’s behavior with a worn-out expression and silver half-moons under his eyes.
Hades pities him sometimes.
He wonders if the others pity him too.
“Oh, if it isn’t Ushiwaka!” Zeus exclaims when Ushijima enters the room, his sarcastic tone full of venom and spite, like he was born in a pit full of snakes. “To what do I owe the disgust of your visit today?”
Ushijima ignores his comment and kneels in front of him. “Oikawa, king of the gods, I have come to ask your permission for [Name], daughter of the one who rules over agriculture and harvest, her hand in marriage—”
“Go to hell, Ushiwaka-chan.”
Ushijima tilts his head to the side, eyes blinking. “... But I rule the underworld? Is that not what we decided?” he asked, the mockery lost on him as always.
“It is always frustrating to talk to you, dear brother,” he said, but waved him off, “whatever, I’ll allow it. I have no objections—oh, and you should just abduct her. There’s no way Kiyoko-chan will agree to this.”
The dark god stares at him in disbelief.
“What?” he sighed, a frown settling on his lips, but his eyes said more: why are you still here? Leave, leave, leave—
“It is unnatural for you to concede so easily.”
“If you think I’m doing this out of the goodness of my heart, you’re very, very wrong.” Oikawa rises from his throne of gold and ivory, taking all the brilliance of the sun with him. Below the heavens, thunder escapes the clouds. “It’s so you can finally stay in that dreary kingdom of yours for good.”
(ii.) : rosētum
and many woven garlands
made of flowers
around your soft throat.
“Mother tells me I mustn’t go above the clouds, where Mt. Olympus is,” you tell Yachi one day, while picking marigolds and lavenders and hyacinths in the quiet meadows of Nysa, “because all the gods there are vile creatures who bring ruin to mortals, and sometimes even other gods.”
“T-That’s right! The other day, I saw Atsumu-san chasing a maiden against her will in a forest once,” she whispered, eyes darting around the field to make sure no one’s listening. “Then after that, she prayed—begged—her father to save her and was turned into a tree.”
“How cruel,” you reply, weaving a flower crown in your soft, gentle hands, always careful not to touch the thorns of roses. “Do you think mortals were only created for it to be ruined by gods?”
“Well, Iwaizumi-san brings glory to mortals of great valor.”
“None of the heroes were happy in the end, though. Heracles, Theseus, Jason, Hector, Achilles—all of them suffered.” You stand up and brush the leftover petals off your chiton and place the finished flower crown on top of your friend’s head. “You always look wonderful with lavenders, Yachi. Anyway, I’m going over there to the other side.”
“Please don’t stray too far, [Name]! It might be dangerous!”
“You don’t have to worry so much, Yachi,” you laugh, light as the summer breeze. “I’m only going to pick more flowers. What harm could be brought upon me?”
Somewhere beyond, the Moirai laugh at your sweet naivety, and continue spinning the thread of fate as Ushijima opens the earth and drags you down the underworld with him.
Mother never warned me about the god below.
(iii.) : regno sopra fantasmi
my bones do not taste of crown and silver
I am not a thing to be owned
When you’re forcefully dragged to the underworld, it is not the sight of anguished souls that pains you.
It is the stench of decay.
The kingdom fills your lungs with millenniums of funeral pyres and burnt flesh, the metallic tang of dried blood and ash lingers in your throat, on the back of your tongue like a disease that has no cure. Still, something heavier plagues this never ending inferno, something more heartbreaking.
The burden of excruciating loneliness.
You want to leave and never come back.
“Release me, you wretched beast! Mother—!”
The dark god narrows his eyes. “I’m not an animal.”
“I’m insulting you.”
“If that is so, then it’s not a proper insult. Animals are kind creatures if not provoked.” He points to his three headed dog, Cerberus, who has not stopped wagging his tail since his master’s return. “Dogs have especially earned my admiration.”
“I don’t care for your preferences towards dogs,” you spat angrily, but the soft whining of the dog fills you with guilt. “Why did you abduct me?”
“Were you not aware of my proposal?” he replies, feigning ignorance.
“What... proposal? I don’t understand—”
“I asked your father for you hand in marriage, and he allowed it.”
“My father told me nothing of this arrangement!”
“How like him to keep you in the dark,” he smiles sadly, and sighs, “I suppose your mother is also ignorant of this.”
“Then, will you let me go?”
“That is not necessary,” he answered, and looks up despite seeing nothing but black, remembering the taste of rotten ambrosia once more. “Your mother’s wrath and despair will soon make heaven move.”
(iv.) : fiat justitia, ruat caelum
I dream of massacres
I am a garden of black and red agonies
I curse you.
“You took my child away from me!” Demeter screams, her voice raw and brimming with despair.
I curse you.
“Technically, it wasn’t me,” Oikawa tries to reason. “It was—”
“It does not matter who executed the plan.” Kiyoko finds the rage and turns them into wild beasts in her heart, devouring all her thoughts of forgiveness. “You are still an instrument to this injustice.”
I curse you.
“Are you threatening me?”
“No. I will let my grief speak for itself.”
I curse you.
“The mortals shall bear your sin,” Kiyoko turns to leave, taking all the seasons with her, and lets the earth wither and shrivel against the cold, abysmal winter. Everything dear to you must die, she thinks. Everything. “Remember my wrath, brother. Remember it well.”
I curse you.
This, I promise.
(v.) : ex urna resurgam
you believed yourself into goddess
who says you were wrong?
“Hey, Ushijima! Didn’t think I’d be seeing you this soon,” Bokuto appears by the entrance of the underworld with his winged sandals. “I guess you already know why I’m here.”
“Oikawa wants [Name] back, I presume.”
“Yeah,” he replies, scratching the back of his neck and grinning rather awkwardly, “Kiyoko-san kind of, uh, started a famine and we haven’t been receiving any sacrifices, so...”
“I will not disobey.” The underworld god rises from his obsidian throne. “Will you let me talk to [Name] first before they leave?”
“Sure, don’t take too long, though,” he tells them, “People are starving and dying up there!”
Ushijima simply nods and guides you near the river Styx.
“I will not be unkind to you,” he says, almost like a whisper, “When you are here, you shall rule all that lives and moves and shall have the greatest rights among the deathless gods: those who wrong you shall always be punished, if they do not appease your spirit with sacrifices, performing sacred rites and making due offerings.”
“Are you really—”
“Yes, I am offering you a bargain of godhood.”
“Did you not want to become a goddess of the underworld?” he asks, confused.
“I don’t—I don’t know. I have never been offered something this grand,” you look away, and murmur, “I’ve always been under my mother’s shadow.”
“I understand. I will give you time to decide.”
“If... I do accept your offer, what do you want in return?”
He slips a handful of pomegranate seeds in your hands. “I suppose you know what this means.” The corners of lips quirk up slightly, but he mostly smiles with his eyes. “You are the maiden of spring and summer after all.”
Hades bids you a safe journey after, and sends you home with his golden chariot. Bokuto takes the reins and the sound of the whip cracks against the empty, dark halls, flying out from the pitch black kingdom and into the open sky.
“I think you’re made for the dark, though. It suits you,” the messenger god chimed beside you.
“What makes you say that?”
“Your name ‘Persephone’ has another meaning, didn’t you know?” he laughs, eyes filled with bright gold and endless summer. Sometimes you wonder why he was not born a sun god. “‘To bring death.’”
(vi.) : nil desperandum
a game of truth and lies
come, won’t you play with me?
“[Name]!” Kiyoko rushes towards you when the golden chariot lands in a soft patch of earth beside Demeter’s temple, encircling her arms around your body and crying. “Are you fine? You aren’t hurt? Did he—”
“I’m fine, mother. Please don’t shed your tears for me.”
“How could I not?” she sobbed, “Did you, by any chance, consume any food when you were in the underworld? Tell me.”
“Calm down, mother. Let me recount the story of my trials. I will tell you the whole truth.”
“When Bokuto came to fetch me so that I may see you again, I sprang up for joy.”
(Offered me divine power. Redacted.)
“He forced me to consume the honey-sweet seeds—” A wail erupts from her mother’s throat.
“—and so I must stay with him a third of the season come winter time.”
“I was in Nysa with my dearest friend Yachi when the earth shook and opened up, and Ushijima carried me off against my will to the underworld.”
“I am telling you the whole truth, even though it grieves me.”
“But you know what, mother?” you smile, the sharp edges of your teeth peeking out of your lips. “The pomegranate seeds tasted wonderful.”
(vii.) : non omnis moriar
and wept because she had dreamt that I was born to wear a crown
You’re picking flowers in the fields again, like the innocent girl you used to be.
Used to be.
Demeter’s hands tighten to a fist. My sweet little girl—
“Mother, are you alright? You look ill.”
“I’m—... I-I’m fine. No need to worry, my sweet child,” she says hastily, “But I think it would be better if I rested in the temple for a while.”
“Shall I escort you?”
“It’s alright.” Kiyoko tucks a strand of hair behind your ear. “I can go on my own.”
You kiss her right temple and she feels a trickle of blood run down her cheek, but there’s nothing there. I must be going mad. “Then have safe trip, dear mother.”
Had I imagined it?
Not that it really matters, because—
I no longer know who she is.
Demeter continues mourning even in the lovely season of springtime.
(viii.) : nomenque erit indelibile nostrum
and make death proud to take us
“Tell me, is this bride vault your own grave? What a dull cavern. It needs more sunflowers.”
Antigone glares at the figure cloaked in black that had appeared out of nothing. “Who are you? And how did you enter?”
“A spectator,” you reply, shifting away from the shadows and into the dim light, “but in truth, I’m more of an emissary of death than a spectator, really.”
“How lovely! The first time a mortal has said my name without trembling in fear,” you chuckle, and rest your elbows on a slab of stone. “You really aren’t afraid of death, are you?”
“There’s no reason to be,” she replies, stitching pieces of fabric together, and looks up to you. There are no tears, no despair in her eyes. “When I made a decision to bury my brother against my uncle-king Creon’s decree, I’ve already accepted my fate to death.”
“You squander your life for a dead brother?”
“Because I refuse to let his corpse rot without proper burial rites, as what should have been his right, even if he was a traitor,” she snapped, “Do you expect me to watch crows and feral dogs feed off from my brother’s carcass while I hide behind city gates like a coward? I would dishonor the gods.”
“I admire your love for your family, that you would choose death for them, even when Oedipus has brought you nothing but humiliation and disgust from the people of Thebes.”
“My father’s fate was brought about by unfortunate circumstances and ignorance. Perhaps, if he had known his birth parents, he would not have married his own mother, and she would not have given birth to us.” She ties the stitched linen into a loose knot, and added, “And perhaps I would not need to bury my own brother, or to die.”
Antigone grips the worn out fabric, snow white knuckles carving out from her hand. “Tell me, are gods always so cruel?”
“Not always,” you beamed, delighted at the question you know the answer to. “You’ll see.”
“But you are lucky to have been loved by your father,” you said wistfully, “I never received any love from him, even after centuries have passed.”
“Then maybe you never had a father to begin with,” the maiden replies, as if suddenly aware of her wisdom. “I’ll be leaving now, but I suppose I’ll be seeing you soon.”
“What of your sister Ismene?” you ask suddenly, while Antigone drags a wooden chair and tiptoes on top of it. She ties the end of the fabric on the ceiling and hangs the snare around her soft, pale neck.
“Her choice was to live,” she said, smoothing the noose coiled around her neck, “mine to die.”
Antigone smiles one last time, kicks the chair away from her, and falls to her death.
(Later, Creon’s son and wife forfeit their life by their own hands, and the poor king must live with his grief.)
(ix.) : memento mori
if I cannot move heaven—
“Father, it’s good to see you’re doing well.”
Oikawa flinches at the sound of your voice and steels himself, and takes a sharp intake of air. “[Name], I—”
You interrupt him. “I haven’t forgiven you, father, did you know that?”
“Mother hasn’t either, if you wanted to know.” She traces the outline of an ivory statues and comments, “needs more black. You should have this repainted.”
Oikawa instinctively reaches for his thunderbolt and tightens his hold on his weapon. “Have you come for retribution?”
“You’re so impatient,” you laugh, the sound of thunderclap and dark summers in your sweet, honeyed voice, and saunter towards the throne until you’re only inches away from him. “There’s no need to rush to your death.”
Before Zeus can strike, you seize his jaw and clench it hard enough to draw blood, and force him to face his sun-lit empire. “Look to your kingdoms, father—”
“I’m coming for them all.”
I will raise hell.