Outside in the courtyard, with the sun hanging high in the sky, the wind blew softly across Crow's shocked face as he collapsed to his knees next to his father's beaten body. Gasping, with blood coming from his lips and forehead – it was nothing compared to the hot blood slowly leaking from his gut and right forearm. His uniform was tattered, turning a dark crimson shade as blood pooled beneath his form.
Crow reached out without care and yanked his father by his shoulders to roll over onto his back. “Hey!” He shouted at the gasping man. “Don't you die on me!”
Corian peeked open his eyes weakly, a smirk forming onto his lips. “I trained you to never cry in situations … like this.” He paused to cough, shutting his eyes. His voice was raspy and gravelly, scraping out of his throat as if it was running along sandpaper on the way out. “I was wrong.”
“Stop talking.” Crow ordered, pulling his dad's head onto his lap while his other hand wrapped around to cradle his shoulder. “We'll get you some help.”
“No.” Corian opened his eyes, his brows furrowing slightly. Will stood back several feet, his left arm folded over his torso so his hand could grip his right forearm; his face was contorted in worry, unsure what to do. Corian coughed once more, shifting his left arm away from Crow's body to the wound on his stomach. He grabbed something then lifted his palm toward Crow's face. “Do me a favor, boy.” His eyes locked onto Crow's face, his voice dropping softer. “Whatever you do, don't use this to go back. Press forward til there ain't a speck of life left in your soul.” As he finished speaking, Corian shoved the bloodied object against Crow's collar then dropped his hand to his stomach. His eyes rolled back in his head as he shut them, air leaving his lungs.
Will's jaw trembled as Crow shifted his weight on his knees suddenly. “Hey. Hey!” His voice got louder and more frantic. Crow's eyes went wide – refusing to process what he was witnessing. “Wake up! Wake up, you fucking bastard!” Crow violently shook Corian's shoulders, shouting louder still, “Wake the fuck up right now!” He drew back his right arm and swung it down to connect against his dad's unresponsive face. “I said wake up!” He reeled in for another punch, shouting more, “Bastard! Wake up, old man!”
Will's hand tensed against his arm as his eyes widened. He didn't notice when a bunch of knights had surrounded them on this peaceful day and Adell came walking up behind him. “Crow, stop!” He shouted after Crow punched his father's corpse three more times. Will rushed up, the movement in his body automatic and frighteningly involuntary. He wrapped his arms around Crow's middle and yanked him back. Crow fought against him, trying to jerk his body forward to punch or kick at Corian.
“Bastard– wake up! Wake up! Bastard – bastard – bastard – bastard!”
“Crow, stop! Stop – it's enough – Crow.” Will struggled to pull Crow back, falling to his knees as he refused to let go.
“That is enough.” Adell stepped in front of them, walking to Corian's side. He peered over the corpse slowly before kneeling down carefully. Without a word, Adell lifted his hand to Corian's brow to feel his forehead as he shut his eyes. Meanwhile, Crow was shouting nonsense and curses at Corian; his shouts devolving into pure screams of anger. Adell opened his eyes, turning his chin to glare over his shoulder at Crow's flailing, screaming form. “Show some respect.” He cursed Crow with thin eyes. He skimmed his eyes over to the guard nearest the boys and curtly ordered, “Take them into the west drawing room. And don't let them out.”
The guard nodded, and followed by two others, the trio swooped in and took Will by one hand and muscled Crow backwards into the manor. Crow shouted and screamed the whole way, his flails becoming more erratic as soon as his sight was cut off from his father's still body when they turned a corner inside.
As soon as Crow was tossed first into the drawing room, he spun around and ran toward the guard at the door. The guard shoved him back with a swift palmstrike while the other tossed Will into the room by his arm. Will caught his balance quickly after staggering forward, then turned to look back at the door. The two guards shoved Crow back in and then slammed the door shut on them.
Crow kicked the door swiftly, bending his body in half, then straightened up. His face was pale, his mouth open and gasping for air, and his eyes were wide with shock. Will folded his arms in across his torso, unsure what to say. Crow started forward to the coffee table and kicked it over, breaking the porcelain that had been sitting on it. He turned and screaming, shoving over a cushion chair, then went to overturn the sofa. Will watched quietly, not moving, as Crow destroyed everything near him in the room – lamps, lifting a chair up to break its wooden frame, jerked over a shelf full of books and statues, tossing a bookend out of the window before yanking the curtains until the metal beam supporting them rocketed to the ground.
Finally out of energy, Crow moaned weakly as he walked over to the window sill. He turned and collapsed onto is butt, shoving his back hard against the wall. The warm air from outside came in as a soft gentle wind, billowing the one curtain that remained up next to him gently. Crow shut his eyes, hanging his head down, gasping out a sob. He bent a knee up, resting his arm on it, and then fell silent.
Will watched Crow for a moment then took a few steps forward. He stepped quietly over the debris, stopping next to a bowl on an end-table Crow had missed; it was full of wax paper wrapped colorful treats. Will picked up the bowl, then went over to Crow's side. He set the bowl down next to Crow's lifted leg, then quietly sat down next to him so his back was against the wall aswell. Will didn't turn to look at Crow, lifting his knees up to brace his back against the wall casually.
After half a minute of silence, Crow spoke in a very low, weak, raspy voice. It sounded similar to Corian's, like his throat was made of sandpaper and his tongue was moving through dirt. “Whatever you have to say, I don't want to hear it.”
Will parted his lips as he looked up toward the ceiling. “I won't say anything. I just want to listen.”
Crow weakly lifted his chin, scanning his eyes toward Will's body. Will didn't break his eyes from the ceiling, studying whatever was up there. Crow could feel his eyes were sunken in, probably with bruises around the edges, and his lips were chapped, cracking painfully. He felt like tar. Furrowing his brows slightly, he asked, “To what? Me bitch and moan? I've got nothin'.”
Will shut his eyes, resting the back of his head to the wall.
His lack of response made Crow's lips turn up a bit as he chuckled. “Seriously not gonna talk?” He asked, then waited for a response. He watched Will, who didn't even turn to look at him.
“Want a taffy?” Will asked, reaching his hand down to the bowl between them. He plucked out a wax wrapped treat and brought it up to his knees, then began to unwrap it carefully.
Crow looked down to the bowl. He studied it for a few seconds before he heavily dropped his hand from his knee to the bowl and picked out a wrapped taffy. By the time Crow was unwrapping his, Will already had tossed his into his mouth and began sucking on it. Crow tossed the wax paper to his side and tossed the pale pink piece of gooey candy into his mouth, his eyes scanning to his side opposite Will.
“What flavor did you get?”
Crow blinked, sucking down the moist sweet liquid, trying to discern its flavor. I feel numb and exhausted. “Mm, watermelon.” He answered softly. “You?”
The two sat in silence while they sucked on their salt water taffy. Neither looking at the other.
The sun flooded into the room from the window above their heads, creating a framed piece of sunlight on the floor in front of them, only to light up the broken ceramics, disheveled books and broken furniture.
“I didn't know I had it in me to be so angry about his death.” Crow said finally.
Before Will could turn his head to look at Crow's face the door to the room opened. The two boys turned their attention across from them as Adell stepped into the room, the door closing behind him. He crossed his hands behind his back at his waist and started to walk around the room slowly, inspecting the damage.
“I can't say I approve of your tastes in redecorating this room.”
“Yeah, well, shit happens.” Crow mocked, his voice gravelly and hollow, speaking around the taffy dissolving in his mouth.
“Indeed.” Adell looked to him sternly. He cast his eyes briefly at Will before back to Crow's face. Then he started to wander toward them, stepping on a pile of ceramics that crunched beneath his boot as he did. “Although, you would do well not to destroy everything around you.”
“The building's still standing and not in fucking flames right now, Adell. What more do you want?” Crow asked irritated, glaring up to the Grand Duke.
Adell stopped before Crow's feet. He stared down the length of his nose at Crow as he exhaled through his nose slowly. Crow glared up at him, gritting his teeth. “I can only hope that you live up to your father's expectations.” He answered after a moment of studying Crow's pale face and fierce blue eyes. He bent at the hip, folding over as he stretched out a hand to drop a small white glistening orb at Crow's feet. “Your father left this for you.” He straightened up, turned on his heel and then started out of the room. Adell stopped at the door to the room, tapped gently with his knuckle against it. “It's yours to use or keep safe.” When the door opened, Adell passed through without another word.
After the door shut with a soft click of the metal handle securing to the doorframe, Will turned his head to look at Crow's face. His eyes were focused on the orb at his feet. Will glanced down at it and then back to Crow.
“You know what that is?” Crow asked Will. Will looked to the orb and then back to Crow. “The pearl of miracles.” His lips curved into a smile as Crow chuckled a few times softly, then he spoke again, “And he doesn't want me to use it to bring anyone back to life or shit like that.”
“Will you use it?”
Crow jolted upright screaming. He gasped, sweat dripping off his face, tears stinging the edge of his eyes, his mouth only hanging open because he refused to clench it. He heard the ruffling of blankets next to him and a soft groan as Will rolled over, getting up to his elbows to look at Crow, barely awake.
“S-sorry.” Crow blurted out. With a swift movement, he swung the blanket off his legs, and slipped out of the bed. By the time he was for the bedroom door, his hands were trembling. The nightmare was resurfacing, memories crashing against his consciousness like waves hitting a jetty.
“Crow?” Will croaked after him sleepily. He woke up screaming. Rushing out like that, the nightmare must've shaken him up.
A few seconds passed before Will got out of bed and went after him. He spotted Crow hurrying down the staircase, clinging to the banister as he went with wobbly legs.
“Hey, are you okay?” Will asked down to him. Crow didn't stop, making his way down into the ballroom. “Crow?” Will frowned, following him.
“Is everything okay?” Arluin asked as he stepped up to Will's side, dressed in his sleeping attire with a fleece robe wrapped around his shoulders. Will shook his head, hurrying down the stairs.
Crow burst through the patio doors and out into the dark rain-filled night. He stopped before getting out of the door fully, turned and went behind the swung open door and collapsed behind it. By the time Will found him, a hand resting gingerly on the edge of the door as he quietly observed Crow, he had pulled his knees to his chest and covered his face with the palm of his hand.
“I don't wanna hear it.” Crow said roughly, not moving.
“Here,” Arluin cut in with a soft voice. Will looked to him, holding out a dishtowel. He examined Crow's stubborn form, then took the towel from Arluin.
Looking back to Crow, Will frowned, furrowing his brows. He looked from Crow, then back over his shoulder to Arluin. “Can you get some blankets, pillows and towel, please?”
“Sure.” Arluin replied softly, then went back inside.
Will knelt down and draped the towel over Crow's hair so as to block the view of his eyes. “Come with me.” He said in a soft voice, attempting to sound sweet and caring as if it were his little brother.
Hesitantly, he wrapped his fingers delicately around Crow's left wrist that was hanging off his knee. It took little force to lift Crow to stand, and then guided him back around the door and inside. A short walk in, and Will had Crow stop in front of a small hall closet near the kitchen and underneath the stairway.
Arluin arrived half a minute later, handing Will a pillow. Will opened the closet, tossed the pillow in and then spoke gently to Crow. “Go in.” Crow didn't lift his head to see past the towel, but stepped forward. He climbed into the closet, sitting down. He relaxed back with his shoulders and head cushioned by the pillow, and one knee braced by the open door's frame. Will carefully draped a blanket over him, then took the other pillow and blanket from Arluin's arms.
“Call me if you need something else.” Arluin said to him in a whisper.
“Thanks.” Will nodded back. He waited for Arluin to go back upstairs before he sat down on the floor next to Crow. He shifted his legs about as he covered himself up with the blanket, putting the pillow under his knees while he rested his back against the door-frame by Crow's legs.
“Go back to bed.” Crow said a cold tone, but he didn't move away as he felt the warmth of Will's shoulder brush his knee through the blanket.
“I don't want to.” Will replied softly, turning his head to look in Crow's direction, but not at him. “I'm just here if you want to talk about it, or something else. I'll just … I want to listen.”
Crow turned his face down, using the towel to shield him from Will's potential gaze. It's just like the dream. I feel like tar iced over – numb and incapable of expressing anything. If I say something now, if I rely on him now, would he think of me less as a man? Or would he be ecstatic to comfort me? Or disgusted with the fragility of my mind? Gritting his teeth, Crow inhaled a breath stubbornly.
Will didn't move or say anything. He made no note of letting Crow know he had heard it.
“I had a shitty dream.” Crow said after a moment.
Will made a sound, but stopped himself. 'Me, too!' I want to tell him – but I want to hear him. What was his dream?
After a second's pause to see if Will would talk after that sound, Crow continued. He lowered his voice to sound huskier, but tried to make it sound like the words didn't bother him. “I dreamed my dad died.”
We must've had the same dream. I'm curious to know if it was some sort of vision of the future, about the pearl? Actually, no. I'm more surprised how shaken Crow is about a dream of his father's death. He must really love him after all. Will considered how to approach Crow for a moment.
No sound came. Crow's ears began to ring. Everything felt cold, the floor, the wall, even the pillow. Then suddenly, something tugged at his hair. Crow opened his eyes slowly, taking in the realization that the sensation was Will gently pulling the towel on his head upwards so they could look each other in the eye. It was dim and hard to see, but Arluin had lit a small lantern on the wall a short distance from them, and it allowed a gentle orange light to cast over them.
“I'm sorry.” Will said in a soft voice – as delicate as fingertips tracing the smooth keys of the piano. “I did, too – that your father died.”
Crow took in a breath, his eyes widening a bit. Then he jerked his head down. Gods! It had to have been gods playing with my fucking mind! Was it Noire sending some jerk after us? But why?!
“Are you okay?” Will asked, pulling Crow's thoughts back to the moment before him.
“Yeah. He didn't really die.” Crow answered, then continued in a callous manner, “I don't care about the old sod anyway.”
Will dropped the towel gently, taking his hand back. “You shouldn't lie.” He whispered. Crow turned his face away from him, feeling Will relax his weight back against his leg.
This is where the conversation ends. Where it should end. I don't care about my dad, Will cares about his, that dream was just to fuck with us.
“I'm lonesome.” Will said softly through the dark, his voice carrying straight out into the room and not in Crow's direction.
Startled, Crow pulled his hand out from under the blanket to yank the towel off his head to look at Will. He was sitting next to him, eyes focused on the empty room.
“I didn't–” Crow started, but Will interrupted him.
“It's lonely without you.” Will finished speaking, pulled a knee tight to his chest, then rested his chin down on it heavily. “Can't I comfort you as well?” He asked softly, his voice sounding weaker – a pane of glass ready to shatter.
“Sure you can,” Crow argued, surprised at how his own voice sounded so shocked. Will tilted his head to face Crow's, his cheek puffing against his knee now. “Wanna try now?”
“You don't object?”
“Nah.” Crow replied easily. Oh, he's wondering about why I left the bedroom and went outside away from him. “I was shaken up before.” He tried to clarify with so little words.
Will made a mused sound in his throat. He didn't move for a second, causing Crow to doubt he was even going to. Then Will lifted the arm closest to Crow, went around him and gently rested it against his cheek. As he did so, Will lifted himself to follow his arm and stretched across the distance to his face. With Will's warm palm cupping Crow's chin, his thumb gingerly resting on his cheek, he leaned in carefully to place a soft kiss against Crow's lips.
W-wow! Crow thought to himself.
As Will pulled from the kiss, Crow slipped down the wall of the closet into the pillow more with a feverish look stamped on his face.
“I'm still lonesome.” Will said gently.
Crow blinked a few times, then shifted the blanket around. “C-come in then.”
Will scooted closer to him, then rested his head down against the crook of Crow's elbow on his torso. He pulled his blanket up over his shoulders, curling into a strange ball to balance his weight, and then shut his eyes with a content look on his face.
Uneasily, Crow pulled at his blanket to cover himself. Will's weight held it down. Another tug and Will lifted himself up. “Sorry.”
“N-no, you're okay.” Crow pulled the blanket free enough to cover himself. “There.” And then Will rested back down, shutting his eyes again. “If you get cold, go back to bed.”
Will made a noise of neither confirmation or denial at that suggestion. Crow sighed a bit, turning his face toward Will's hair and shut his eyes. A delicate scent of honey wafted up toward him, causing Crow to relax a bit more.
As long as I can smell this, I won't have another dream like that again. Not tonight. Crow opened his eyes briefly to look at the top of Will's head, trying to decide how comfortable Will really was, then shut them a moment later when he felt Will let out a gentle breath.
“Really. What will I do with a pair of idiots?” Arluin asked the next morning, his arms crossed as he took in the sight of Will and Crow snuggled in the oddest way at the door to the closet. He stepped away to the kitchen, and started making a simple breakfast.
A bit later, the delicious scents that woke both up filled their noses. Confused, but loving the smells, both Crow and Will stirred at the same time. They yawned, rubbed at their eyes and sore joints, then looked down in front of them.
Placed on a silver serving platter was a dish fit for two: warm toast, jars of honey, strawberry and grape jam, a zesty marmalade that was the rich golden color of a cosmos flower, a sliced up orange on a plate, and two empty tea cups with a tea pot sitting next to them with steam gently floating out of its spout.
“Whoa…” Will gawked at the platter, lowering his legs so he could edge closer to the delicious smells.
“That smells awesome!” Crow chirped, though his voice was tired.
Without even getting out of their blankets or straightening up the pillows, the two scuttled their way around the platter, Crow giving up and pulling it somewhat closer to them, and then began to eat. Will started off with some toast and strawberry jam while Crow tossed almost half of the orange down his mouth from the start.
“Delicious!” Crow yipped after he swallowed his mouthful. “I wanna be able to cook yummy snacks like this! You really lucked out with Arluin!”
“Y–yeah.” Will nodded, taking a bite of his toast. That's odd. I can't seem to recall really when I met him? He wasn't always a butler to my father.
Crow started work on the other half of the orange slowly, focusing his eyes on Will's rather thoughtful expression. “What's wrong?” A bit startled from being asked that, Will lifted his eyes up steadily, then looked over to Crow curiously. “You look like you're thinking really hard about something.”
“Oh.” Will gave a small nod. “I can't think when I met Arluin. But it must've been a while ago.” He paused, taking another bite of his toast. Crow waited, starting to chew another piece of orange. Once Will swallowed his bite, he continued. Actually. Crow woke up screaming. “Maybe I'm worried about you?” Wait. Crap. That sounds creepy! Will felt his jaw tensing, his eyes starting to focus intently on the mushed up strawberries spread about on his toast.
“Bout the shitty dream where my old man hit the sack?” Crow asked rather abruptly. He chuckled when Will glanced at him nervously. “We're born with a death sentence, so what's it matter? I'm fine. If I dreamed he's gonna die, then whatever.”
“You… really don't mind?”
“Don't what? That I dreamed it or that he'll die?” Crow relaxed his arm down, shifting his back straight. “Doesn't bother me a bit if that old fart just dropped dead today.”
Will nodded once more. I guess that's hard to talk about for normal people; people who haven't had the death of a parent. … But Crow's had a parent die so, maybe? “I think…” Will started to speak softly, unsure if his words were okay to be saying right now. “I was very scared when my father forgot me.”
“Yeah?” Crow asked, leaning his shoulders in a way so he could get a better look at Will's shaded face. It was a bright morning, but the sunlight was being dimmed by the clouds still lingering around from the night's rain. “I can see that. My old man fallin' flat I'd, well.” He took in a sudden breath, causing Will to look over to him. Crow cleared his throat, then continued in a formal tone. “The death of my father in the dream was a rather displeasant experience, but the circumstances leading to the vividness of it was more alarming.”
Will tilted his head to the side, squinting his eyes suspiciously at Crow's now relaxed face. Noting that, Crow snickered, a smile breaking onto his face. “The dream freaked you out, and now you're saying it wasn't just a dream?”
“Nah,” Crow shook his head, shifting his weight back. “It was a dream. Entirely ficticous, dreampt up by a manipulative bastard. The question is who? I got an idea which god planted it in our heads, but who put her up to it?”
“You met her. A mean spirited god who hates showing herself, Oneirhōn.” Crow shrugged. He finished the orange before he continued on, giving Will a few minutes to think.
Wasn't that… That sounds like the god that tried to give me a pleasant dream and was going to eat my soul. I think. So, she can deliver crummy dreams, too. But who'd want to give us a nightmare? Noire? Probably not Phyte. Hydros? I guess it wouldn't be above her.
“Noire on his own probably isn't spiteful. Course he's been around Phyte for a while and that rat's just a sociopath.” Crow shifted up onto his knees. He poured himself a bit of honey-colored tea into one of the cups, then took a sip of it. “Doesn't matter who's idea really. I'm gonna slice 'em with Invictus either way.”
Will watched as Crow took another sip of tea. He looks pissed. Giving him a dream about his father's death must've really irked him. “Will you… go after whoever it is?”
“Right now? Nah.” Crow shook his head. “No point.” He smirked at Will, “Besides, spiteful people like that hang around. Just like Phyte.”
“You sound really sick of him.” Will offered with a smile.
Crow gave Will a playful glare. “Don't make me repeat it. A blade through his gut would make me happy.” He shifted his arms above his head, stretching, then went ahead and poured Will some tea. “Whatever though. I'll be fine.”
“Yeah?” Will asked, taking the cup from Crow once it was full.
“Yep.” Crow nodded. He leaned forward toward Will, planting a soft kiss on his cheek. “I had a great cuddle-buddy come after me in the night to soothe away the uneasiness.”
Will lifted his hand to cover his cheek where the kiss had been left as a gentle pink blush spread across his cheeks. Is – Is he getting bolder by the day with open flirtation with me?!
“Now!” Crow clapped his hands together. “You're gonna help me clean these dishes, okay?”
Will stared at Crow with a surprised look easing onto his blushing face. He felt himself giving a small nod and a soft answer, “O-okay.”
As Will finished his cup of tea, Crow gathered up the platter carefully. The two stood up together, Crow kicking their blankets into a pile at the closet, and then headed into the kitchen. Systematically, Crow piled the dishes next to the sink, turned on the faucet and waited for the water to run warm. He waved Will over to his side.
Will took a step closer to him, standing next to him. “I've washed dishes before.”
“Yeah, but these are your dishes.” Crow countered right away. He smiled at Will's confused expression, then dipped his hands into the running water. He reached across Will, bringing back the platter to hand him. Will took it in his hands, turning it over to get it wet first. Immediately Crow chuckled. “No, not like that. Like this.” Crow lifted his left hand to touch the edge of the platter, but not take it from Will, to guide it to an angle.
“Like this…?” Will asked, turning the platter too far so water splattered up to Crow's chest.
“Now you're doing that on purpose! Like this.” Crow laughed, using his right hand to shield himself from the water as he tried to correct the angle. “You're getting water on me!”
Will laughed, letting go of the platter with one hand as he reached for the glass jar containing the dish soap. It's quite. Will noted, not hearing Crow laugh anymore. He glanced over to Crow, seeing the other just smiling at him. “Wh–what?”
“Nothing. I just… I thought you had a really… attractive laugh.”
Will smiled, easing the soap and water over the platter slowly so it wouldn't splash. “I think… your laugh is… very attractive, too.” Crow took the platter from him, easing it into the drying rack on his right. Will took the first plate into hand and placed it under the water at a similar gentle angle so water wouldn't splash on them. He paused after a moment, looking over to Crow's smiling face.
The two worked together for a few minutes, with Will doing most of the work. Will would wash, soap and rinse the dishes, then hand them off to Crow to stack them. Plates went first, followed by the tea cups, then any bit of silverware that might be out.
When they were almost done, Crow spoke quietly. “Will.” Will made a noise in his throat softly, handing the last knife to Crow. As he placed it into the rack, Crow turned around, taking a half-step back away from the counter. “You know you've said it to me… Only you know, you used different words. I've said it to you. Do… you… ever wanna say it to me?”
Will took a step back, reaching for the drying towel. He turned his hands over in it, patting them dry. Considering his vagueness he must be talking about 'love'. “Well, yes…” Uneasily, he started to fold the towel back up. “It's just… that the words… kind of sound weird to me? How can three words just be so…”
Will looked over to Crow. He'd tilted his head to the side with a smile in the left edge of his lips. Will could tell that Crow had pushed the tip of his tongue against his canine while he thought. “It's okay.”
“Y–you know. I have said it. In – in a different way.”
Immediately a smile meant to tease Will got plastered over Crow's face. “'I cherish you' is not the same thing as 'I love you'.”
Chuckling, Will tossed the bottom-half of the towel at Crow. Laughing, Crow took a few steps away. “Oh! Well, I'm sorry I'm so shy!”
“That's all right.” Crow crossed his arms to block the towel as it came around lightly for a second hit. “I'm sure you'll say it in your own time.”
“Like you'll wait!” Will snapped the towel a third time.
This time Crow batted it back, then took a step back. “Hey, I'll have you know I am a very patient person! So patient, I'll wait for ice cream to get good and warm before eating it!”
Will looked at the smug look on Crow's face, looking so proud. “But, then it's just melted. You should eat it when it's cold. It's called ice cream.”
“Ew. No. Then it's just a way to freeze your mouth! Even in summer that shit sucks!~”
The two started laughing. After a moment, Will tossed the towel at Crow's middle. Instinctively, Crow folded his knee up and pushed his arms down to guard against the terrycloth as it hit. He grabbed it with one hand, and playfully snapped it at Will's knee before closing the distance to him. Will gave him a playful push back against his collarbone, to which Crow took a step back then countered to the side. He then darted forward and gave Will another kiss on his cheek before he could be stopped.
Hearing their laughter, Arluin stepped into the room. He propped both his hands on his hips as he judged their situation. “I hate to break up such happiness, My Lord.”
Will lifted his hand to cover his mouth as they steadily stopped laughing to look at Arluin. “Nah, what's up?” Crow asked with a smile stuck to his lips. His jaw relaxed when he noticed the young butler wasn't smiling.
“It would seem that His Majesty King Rhys and His Grace Grand Duke Adell vanished in the night.” Arluin stated, folding his arms behind his back to express his composure.
Will's face fell slack. Wh – wait. Wh – what? They vanished?
“The King's knights are here for you, Will.” Arluin concluded.
Crow's eyes jolted over to look at Will's face as he saw it start to pale. Still dressed in their pajamas, the two hurried through the kitchen, past Arluin into the dining room, turned the corner to the right and went directly into the ballroom.
Standing there waiting for them were thirteen knights dressed in full regal attire, each with a weapon of some sort on them: a sword, mace, short knives, and the like. They were dressed in white robes, tall men and a few women, trimmed in gold and lime green in various parts around the collar, hips and cuffs. Although it looked like a few were loitering around the ballroom while waiting, they all turned at attention to Will as soon as he stepped through.
The knight closest to Will had deep red hair similar to Adell's, but super pale skin like milk, and eyes gray like a storm. On his right hip he had a one-handed sword sheathed. But it was two cream envelopes in both his hands that caught Will's eye.
The knight nodded a bit to Will. “His Majesty left us an envelope of directions.” He held it out for Will to take.
Crow took it from the knight right away, flipping it open. He turned the piece of paper from inside it over his hand, looking for the message. “This is it?” Crow asked in disbelief to the knight. “Viau, there's gotta be more.”
“I'm afraid not.” the knight shook his head. “Just this letter addressed to his heir.”
Crow looked to Will. “Left vague in case someone doesn't know who the direct heir would be for safety.”
Will swallowed hard in his throat, reaching out. He took a ginger hold of the letter, sliding the tips of his fingers along the edges to see if the seal'd been broken. He felt a bit relieved that it was still shut tight. “What's that one say?”
Crow flipped the paper back over, reading the inscribed message. “Do not look for me. Spirit to my heir's side.” He held it out to Will to see. Will glanced it over briefly, then looked down to the envelope in his hands.
“As it stands now, you are our king.” Viau stated in a heavy tone.
Will thinned his lips, afraid to say or think anything. After a few seconds, he slipped his finger into the opening of the envelope's edge and tore it open. He pulled out the paper from inside and read it's lengthy message silently to himself.
“What's it say?” Viau asked, in a tone that was rather demanding.
Crow glared at him, but took a step closer to Will to look at the text. Will took in a breath, and read it aloud to them. “My sweet heir. Perchance this letter fall to Evil, to you alone I leave this riddle. Darkness abound, in between I am found. Henceforth you seek, find the veil uncharted land, round the trunk of death is it, fallen from glory shall be it. Godspeed my sweet heir. May the wind guide you.”
“The hell does that mean?” Crow asked, snatching the paper from Will's hand to read over it. “Trunk of death? Godspeed to where?”
Will shook his head, slowly taking the letter back. Between means he's in the Threshold. Trunk and uncharted land. I'd have to look at an atlas, but it sounds like the Toul Wood.
“Regardless. We must move you to the palace.” Viau stepped closer to Will, reaching up to touch his shoulder. “You'll need to make an address to the lord knights this afternoon in place of His Majesty.”
Will looked up just in time to see Crow step between him and the knight. “Hey. You don't move anyone.” Crow said in a low threatening voice.
Immediately Viau grabbed Crow's collarbone through his shirt on his right side, his forearm going underneath Crow's chin, and lifted the shorter man several inches off the floor with sudden force. “You're in my way, little cur.”
Wa – wait. Put him down! You're hurting him! Put him down! Will gawked, his hands trembling. He heard Crow cough for air once, watching the other lift his hands up to brace against the forearm holding him up. Although there was an obstinate smirk on Crow's face, he looked like he was in sharp pain.
Moving off of pure instinct, Will darted forward toward Viau's side and swung something swiftly and hard against the man's middle. It impacted his hip, making the man drop Crow to the ground with a thud as he caved himself.
“Why you–” Viau cursed, holding his hip with one hand as he shifted up to a knee. He looked pissed, ready to charge at Will.
Will, startled, stepped back and dropped what was held tight in his hands. Viau's sword clattered to his feet. Just as the angry knight started to get his feet under him, the twelve other knights swarmed between him and Will. Immediately Will knelt down over Crow, one hand on his knee and the other on his shoulder, while Crow tried to shift upright.
“What are you–?” Viau asked his fellow king's knights.
“We'll lock you in solitary if you threaten the would-be king!” Snapped a female knight, her hand on the hilt of her sword, ready to draw it.
Viau clicked his tongue, but rested back onto his haunches. Will looked down to Crow as the other looked up to him uneasily. Arluin helped get Crow up and eased both him and Will back into the kitchen around the corner.
Once there, with his hands shaking, Will started to undo Crow's shirt. He pulled it open frantically to look at Crow's chest.
“H-hey now! Wait a minute, Will! Hey!” Crow caught ahold of both Will's hands before he could reach out and touch the bruise starting on his collarbone. “Don't just go stripping me!”
“I – I wasn't! I was just – but he – and you –” Will blabbered, unable to form a clear sentence. His mind was rushing just as fast. No thought could form.
“Hey, chill.” Crow pulled his shirt shut with his left hand, moving so he held both of Will's with his right. “It hurt, but I'm fine.”
“Might we be heading to the palace soon?” Arluin asked while he was folding some ice into the terrycloth from before. Will looked between him and Crow momentarily. Arluin passed the cold package to Crow, who let go of his shirt to take it, putting it against his bruise. Will frowned as Crow winced when the cold shock went through him. “I doubt they'll concede to waiting here. Will needs to be dressed to sit in with the lord knights after all.”
Will glanced at Arluin briefly. He looked back to Crow, reaching up delicately to take a hold of the edge of Crow's shirt to try and pull it slightly away from his body to see the bruise.
“Hey!” Crow snapped at him playfully, taking a step back. “I'm fine!” Will looked up to his eyes, his jaw going slack. His blue eyes looked dazed and confused, his arm dropping back to his side slowly. Crow noticed immediately that Will was starting to shut down due to the shock. “It'll just be for a day or two, right? Not like you're becoming king.” He spoke in a gentle voice trying to see if he could spark a smile from Will.
“I hope they're okay.” Will replied in a soft voice.
Crow made a noise in his throat, agreeing with him. “Mm, yeah.” Rhys and Adell missing right after Noire tried to zap him. Going to the 'between'? Could they have gained access to the Threshold? But, why? Why would they want to go there?