Author's Note:

This might start off kind of serious, but it's going to be a comedy/fun piece exploring Heine's childish behaviors! That said, we might reach the darker themes introduced in this first chapter eventually if the fic continues long enough.

Enjoy!

"A child research facility?"

Heine repeated incredulously the words Viktor had just told him a moment ago. He was aware of the recent progresses in the natural philosophy field right now, but no matter the eventual results, using children for research purposes wasn't something he or the kingdom could accept.

"Yes," Viktor confirmed with a small sigh, dropping his interlaced finger onto the wooden tabletop, "Right on the edges of Wiener, here under our noses."

"What kind of research are they conducting? Is it not possible that they are not harming those children in any way, after all?"

"It would be great if that's true, Heine. But then there would have been no reason to gather only orphans whose presence would not be missed, and provide for them in the facility without letting a one out to be sighted again."

At the word 'orphans' Heine's eyes widened, and he blurted out, "The declining numbers of new children at the Church… I thought it was because the country and the people has changed, and there simply is not as many orphans as before…"

"Unfortunately." Viktor said lowering his gaze.

"Our work still has a long way to go." Heine agreed.

"Regardless, the research facility needs to be dealt with. Word had it that they are secretive and highly strict about their internal security. In theory we can have our city guards crack down on them but…"

"We don't want to seem impulsive and tyrannical, had they turn out to be innocent." Heine nodded in understanding. "We would need more information then."

"That also would be hard." Viktor mused. "We could send someone to infiltrate, but as I said they are strict almost to the level of paranoia— Not a soul goes in there but the children, and all the researchers know each other by sight. Besides, I need an agent who is absolutely trustworthy…."

"That's why you called me, wasn't it?" Heine said with a serious face, reaching for his cap and removing it.

Viktor simply smiled.

Heine put the cap on his lap, turned aside and laid both hands on his own cheeks, pulling slightly. His expression relaxed, he stopped frowning and tried to soften his gaze. Trying to look as childlike as possible, he looked back towards the king, and blinked adorably.

"Would this suffice, do you think?"

Viktor stood up out of his kingly seat with a delight laugh, and approached Heine, putting a hand on his head and ruffling the tamed red locks until they stood in every direction.

"This might do it. Also, try to raise the pitch of your voice. And don't use difficult vocabularies— try 'is this alright, Viktor nii-san?' instead"

"I know. That's unnecessary at the moment though." Heine said in his usual monotone. There is no way in the world that would make him pretend to be a kid in front of Viktor.

He might suffocate to death on his own shame first.

"You're just embarrassed." Viktor stated the obvious with a victorious glint in his eyes. "But it's true that you'd need some tattered, street worthy clothing,"

Glad of the change of topic, Heine quickly seized the opportunity.

"And some mud on my face, and a hungry, desperate look to my eyes— I think I might be too well fed in the last few years to properly seem the part. Shall I stop eating for a few weeks before beginning the operation?"

"…."

Heine had been looking down at himself, making the conclusions he thought rational. But at the lack of reply, he moved his gaze upwards to meet that of his old friend, surprised.

"..."

"..."

They looked into each other's eyes for a silent, tense moment. Then Viktor lowered his voice.

"It's almost scary how easily you are accepting this, Heine. I haven't even asked."

"You don't need to." Heine replied in an equally low voice. In the silence of the room, it almost seem irreverent to be speaking in a normal tones. "The facility needs to be brought down. I'm the only one who stands a chance of getting in, barring real children, and this is not a job real children should be concerning themselves with."

"It's dangerous."

"Exactly."

"No, Heine. I mean for you. It's dangerous for you, too. We don't know what they really do to the children in there."

"If it's for the kingdom—" Heine began, but cut himself off mid-sentence. Viktor, who had geared himself to argue with that statement, also paused halfway and brought his gloved hand down.

Heine continued, "—I would've liked to say so… but you wouldn't have any of it, would you?"

The king could only nod bashfully, self-conscious that he had been predicted so easily. Heine took a breath, and in a normal tone not brooking any doubt or hesitance, suggested,

"Let's have it this way then." The loud voice after the whispered conversation startled both of them, even Heine himself. But the redhead pushed on in the authoritative tone.

"It will take me a few weeks or months at the least to look the part of a street urchin. Until then, let's continue the investigation in any way that we can. If the case is solved before this plan is ready, we just pretend nothing had happened."

"If that's what you say… I guess I can accept that." Viktor consented hesitantly.

Feeling inexplicably tired of this conversation all of a sudden, Heine stood, grabbing the cap off his lap and holding it in front of his chest, facing his host and king.

"Well then, have a good evening, your majesty."

"Good evening, Heine."

The royal tutor fixed the black teacher's cap on his now ruffled hair, and bowed out of the room.

The palace hallways are empty and silent at this time of night. Deprived of the riveted breathing of four teenagers who had been here just a moment ago, eavesdropping on a conversation they should never have heard.