Six of Swords -
(Yuuri on Ice, Viktuuri AU. Seven Bogatyrs version)
I. Child of Victory
Skin as white and soft as new-fallen snow; hair wispy, brittle, and so fair it appeared white as frost; eyes as blue and cool as two frozen lakes. The Czarevich, a winter child, came to this world exactly like his mother had wished for, on Christmas Day at midnight in that white winter, when the fountains of the royal castle were dry, topped with ice sculptures of pegasi and unicorns, and the lake beyond the garden walls had frozen solid.
It was one of those few occasions when the Czardom enjoyed a much sought-after dream of peace. The snow swirled outside the frosted windows and upon fields, woods, and streets, as if the clouds were sowing ice-flower seeds everywhere.
The winter before, Czar Nikifor had not been deterred by the white winter to ride out into the steppes at the southern border of the realm to keep the barbarians at bay. He kissed his queen goodbye, stroked her golden locks, and her belly rife with life and hope. Warfare was his life, even more than statescraft, and he was still young, a foolhardy frontline leader; he knew every time he rode out of the castle could be the last one. That he could return laid in state and crowned with laurels, through gardens and hallways draped in black, as dirges, threnodies, were sung for his sake. "So often went the pitcher to the fountain, that, sooner or later, it had to shatter." Those were household words he uttered every time he reviewed his army upon the esplanade, right before going forth at the head of his ranks.
Those were household words that His Majesty always told his lords and generals, now even more that his lovely, highborn lady wife was expecting since springtime, giving him more than ever a reason to return alive, victorious, to the landscaped grounds of that fortelesque palace of red sandstone.
(The Czar is killed in action two winters later, the Czarina dies of an illness before springtime, the court is in mourning)
(Archduchess Lilia) She was a tall, slender noblewoman with raven hair and piercing eyes the colour of steel above a sharp aquiline nose. Her cheekbones, so prominent among the Slavic people, were more prominent than usual, giving her lower cheeks and face a sunken-in look, which, together with her pale skin, made her look like a consumptive. For decades, ever since her adolescence, she had straitlaced her ribcage within a tight wire corset, thus misshaping her thorax, barring her from the loving joys of motherhood, though she saw that sacrifice as necessary; trading fertility for slender beauty. Yet that sickly appearance and barren wasp-waist deceived at first sight, for her spine and her limbs were indefatigable, her wit sharp and shining as a Toledo rapier, her resolve haughtily stubborn and unyielding, whenever she had a purpose: she would rather break than bend. As for emotions, the courtiers whispered that she had most surely had her heart frozen by a shard of the Mirror of Truth; caring far more for realpolitik than for taking up a husband, or helping the needy of the realm; even called "unsexed" and "mannish" by men who feared a female overpowering them. She had once had a man in her life, back when she was young and unafraid; one of the Czar's generals, but, ever since he fell upon the field of battle, she had hardened her heart and consecrated her life to more serious matters. Said resolve was fixed even more when the Czar spurned her advances to marry the foreign princess bride that had been chosen for his sake. Surprisingly, the marriage, though arranged, had grown full of love and warmth and expectations, strengthened even more through the cruel storms of war.
And now this foolish royal pair had shuffled off their mortal coil, their only child and heir left an orphan in the cradle, and the realm needed strong, hard hands to grasp the reins of state until his coming of age... The position of Czarina Regent was tailormade for Lilia; it was unanimously decided by a council of lords and generals in which she was the only female presence.
"Certain it is, after the untimely demise of her lord husband, she received large sums of money, under pretence of paying off her troops, surrendering of hill-forts, and Heavens know what besides. She was permitted also to retain some insignia of royalty... She leaves her court when she pleases, and has been as far as Fort St. George before now. In a word, she does pretty much as she likes."
(some called her usurper)
II. Thirst for Love
Years turned to lustrums, and the royal child grew into a comely stripling. A tall man, long legs in black slacks carried him. Wide torso stretched his light uniform jacket and his strong shoulders were decorated by shouldermarks, like silver epaulettes. The boy was now almost a man, a grown-up graceful prince, fair and willowy as a healthy lily. His beautiful soft silver hair was cut short in a shapely helmet and covered one of his eyes elegantly. The cobalt blue cloth and silvery buttons and epaulets of the uniform did nothing but heighten the colour of his eyes, the fairness of his hair and skin...
He was a bright, beautiful boy, as beloved as a prince, delicate and fair as the prince he was, as beautiful as an angel or a faery. Now he was so tall, and was fourteen years old, handsome and clever. How tall and slender and thin he had grown! But he still had his beautiful eyes, and the angel-sweet faery mouth! How tall, thin, and lanky he was, but he still had those charming eyes and that angelic mouth, and had plenty of learning and accomplishments.
(Education / other things than ballet/ice sk8ing)
He was furthermore skilled in dancing, so right then, at fourteen, he was sent to a boarding school in western lands, where he trained ballet. A tall young woman with a face like the full moon and almond eyes, as much a stranger in a strange land as the Czarevich himself, Minako had become his instructor during that foreign sojourn, and accompanied him back to his stepmother's court, since she lived apparently in her family tavern at the edge of the czardom. The reason for their return had been none other than the growing unrest in the capital of that refined western realm; the royals themselves having even been taken prisoner by the new revolutionary government. Back at the Czarina's court, Viktor was pushed to practise ballet with Minako for a couple of hours. They had a special room set up for his practise and it did a good job for what it was.
With a blink of an eye they were at the lake and Viktor quickly put on his skates. He was eager to try new things, impatient and unable to wait for his lessons.
When something unexpected like a chance spin or an impromptu footwork happened, Viktor was ecstatic. Little by little he skated further away from the people who skated the slow laps.
“It may be out of it, then, madam,” answered Minako, not pettishly nor pertly, but with the utmost simplicity. —“Mr. Hartley, will you step into that garden? — and, you, madam, may observe us from the window, if it be the fashion of the country to watch so closely.”
As she spoke this she stepped through a lattice-door into the garden, and with an air so simple, that she seemed as if she wished to comply with her patroness’s ideas of decorum, though they appeared strange to her. The Queen, notwithstanding her natural assurance, was disconcerted by the composure of the Eastern maiden's manner, and left the room, apparently in displeasure.
That day in the evening, she took her leave of the Czarevich; waving him goodbye as she explained that she had been cashiered, and was returning to her family tavern.
All Viktor had been able to do was watch as she disappeared beyond the garden wall and into the treeline. Powerless.
III. Cold Steel Blade
IV. Holdfast of Safety
The tall man towering over him, wore a red coat of gold brocade. He wore the biggest grin the Prince had ever seen, with blue piercing eyes.
“Hey! JJ, mon amie! Leave something for me, will you? Oh, what’s this? A mink coat!” Another man leaned into his field of vision and his golden eyes glimmered upon Viktor's coat and his hands pulled it from him, haphazardly bringing up the young royal to his feet. He staggered as the piece of clothing was coming of him roughly.
“Chris, I see you found something to your liking more than a coat.” JJ chuckled and observed them with amusement. Chris, with the hair color of yolk and sideburns reminding of dark hollander cocoa, purred in a low voice. “Well, I’ve yet got to see under that last coat. Darling, you are dressed up like an onion, I’ve got to peel you layer by layer.” Chris pulled the Czarevich to himself and he hit his chest with his own. He would try to get out of his grasp... weren’t it for Chris’ hands firmly pressing the stripling's hips to his own, kneading his derrière as best as he could. The shock was so huge that Viktor couldn’t find any words nor strength to muster any action. He simply froze in the man’s arms and watched as his face got closer and closer, alarm ringing in his ears.
V. Gift of a Medal
Three days into his stay with the rebels, Viktor was finally safe and sound, quiet murmur around him. Leo played on his mandolin and Guang Hong accompanied him with a guitar. The song rippling from their plucking among all present, making Viktor think of Venice and the beautiful aquarelles he had seen as setpieces for Shakespeare at the Court Theatre. The beautiful, slim gondolas swimming in the narrow canals. The talk turned into caresses and unconscious touches, the ones gathered around the bonfire clung closer to each other on an instinct.
(more descriptions of everyone else at the rebel group; They find out he's the Usurper's stepchild, and he finds out they're the Resistance. More shenanigans ensue)
The Czarevich's lily fingers itched to touch those of the young innkeeper and to run them through his raven hair, just like they did almost every time they had been able to see each other. But it wasn’t meant to be, because he was ripped out of his memories quite suddenly. Chris’ hand slid from his shoulder down his elbow, aiming for his behind and it would arrive there in a particular lustful grab, but His Royal Highness put an unexpected twist to it. Literally.
He held Chris’ wrist, making a turn with his body and leading Chris’ hand so that it landed on JJ’s muscular derrière. It was protruding very nicely since JJ’s jacket was cut shorter on the back. It served as the best target for Chris’ hand to end upon.
VI. Gift of Fruit
VII. The Innkeeper's Quest
Toshiya exchanged nervous looks with Hiroko and she whispered something to him, upon which he took off and came back with a wicker basket. His parents were quite simple folk and rarely worried about anything. Their fidgety attitude alerted Yuuri to attention.
“Yuuri, as it’s your birthday, we thought to give you a little gift. You always wanted it since you were little. We wanted to wait till the evening, but perhaps it’s a good idea to do this now?”
Yuuri frowned, thinking it was summer and he was sure his birthday was in November. Actually, it was summer here all the time, now that he thought of it. It was so confusing.
“That’s alright. If you think the timing is right now, I’d be glad to now. Though you shouldn’t have worried about gifts for me.”
Toshiya’s eyes lit up instantly, making him look like an excited child and Hiroko chuckled, tugging him on his sleeve. They didn’t step closer and put the basket on the ground. Exchanging the looks one last time, they removed the lid and exclaimed cheerfully.
A little brown fluff appeared over the brim and a small black nose peeked in the air. The pet didn’t seem to reach the opening very well, so his parents took pity on it and flipped the backed on its side carefully.
A small poodle rolled out of it all lumpish. It looked disoriented for a moment and started to look around. It saw Yuuri and immediately took after him just like a deer frolicking on a meadow.
Yuuri crouched down to it and let it lick his hands and felt his heart fill with joy. The fur was so soft and curly, his fingers easily found their way into it, petting the small doggie with reverence.
“Do you like him?”
Toshiya asked in anticipation, his wife clinging to his elbow waiting as well.
“Oh, I’m sorry! Yes! Thank you, I don’t know what to say. He’s perfect. Thank you again!”
Yuuri picked the puppy up and cradled it in his arms, letting it wiggle around in excitement and barely heard his parents over the high pitched barking.
“Wonderful! What will you name him?”
Yuuri paused briefly and answered in a daze.
For a while everything made sense again.
VIII. The Final Stand
(In the European quarter of the capital of the Shogunate, Viktor and Yuuri spend the rest of their lives as simple innkeepers)
(JJ and Isa are now Czar and Czarina)
I have seen another story with this premise, but in that one, it was Yuuri who was "Snow White." I thought Viktor would be better cast in that role and Yuuri as Prince, eh, Innkeeper Charming. J.J. as the leader of the bogatyrs and Lilia as the stepmother, for instance, are recast from that fic, and so are all the other bogatyrs (Mila, Yurio, Otabek...).
As main inspirations, I took the Grimms' Snow White (various translations, checked out here: http://doras.dcu.ie/17982/1/Niamh_Chapelle.pdf) as well as Dumas's expanded retelling (which explains, among other things, the reason for her father's demise being due to war... as well as the medal attempt (the original text had a poisoned hairpin, but this is a queer version!) that occurs a fortnight before the apple attempt, and the smallpox scars: https://books.google.es/books?id=GmUCAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=blanche+de+neige+alexandre+dumas&hl=es&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwikmZuf0NLYAhXJbRQKHQZoA0AQ6AEIMDAB#v=onepage&q=blanche%20de%20neige&f=false) and Neigefleur, Jean Lorrain's version (from which I took the petard-hoist pack of wolves finale). And of course the Slavic version, which trades the cottage for a holdfast and the dwarves for bogatyrs, with a watchdog (here, Makka-chin) as team pet (and which I consider one of the best Snow Whites EVER). As for Lilia being here a straight cougar scorned, Euripides's Medea and Hippolytus are not the only ones to thank... that motif already exists in the world's oldest fairytale, dating back to Pharaonic Egypt (the tale of Anubis and Bata).
The whole "Lieutenant? Better than that!" exchange is an anecdote told of royalty incognito across early modern Europe. It's told in Russia of Peter the Great and in Prussia of Frederick the Great, for instance.
Some details, like the inscription being in Latin letters on one side of the case and in Cyrillic on the other, or the Venetian mask (Phantom-of-the-Opera style) that a scarred Lilia wears into battle before her own magic turns against her, are of my own invention and for worldbuilding (also of notice in this case are the Katsukis' backstory and the epilogue, after the villainess is defeated).
The tavern (a ryokan in rural Russia!), in the green lindenwood with the rose hedge and the pond, is from this Snow Queen AU: http://archiveofourown.org/works/13079013/chapters/30448812 I made the "strange statues" jizos. All the Otayurio, Milasara, and Chris/JJ scenes are from that same AU. But the scene where Viktor is led to the tavern having strayed, with all that "thirst for love" commonplace, kneeling at the pond and being offered a teacup... and his repeated visits to the tavern, is from La Marquise de Salusses, this version in verse of the Griselda mythos: https://fr.wikisource.org/wiki/Œuvres_choisies_de_Charles_Perrault,_édition_1826/Contes_de_ma_mère_l’Oye/Griselidis
"So often went the pitcher to the fountain, that, sooner or later, it had to shatter." That comes from what Gustavus Adolphus said on his leave-taking speech. As for Plisetsky Castle, I took it from the same Snow Queen AU I have linked above. And I also listened to The Final Solution by Sabaton and thought of Hitler's Romany purges, for Otabek's backstory.
As for the state of gays and Europeans in the Shogunate, that was exactly the way they were treated in Tokugawa-era Japan in real life.
Long story short, there is a lot of intertextuality here!