Yet the Sea is Never Full
The Maou may control water, but it is Murata Ken who understands it.
As they are sucked through to New Mazoku again, Murata grabs a last breath of the earth's air, filling his lungs with the pollution, knowing that in seconds, he will be in a world that's never heard of smog or acid rain. He wants this to be his memory of Tokyo; the feel of his burning lungs as he struggles to hold onto that last gift of his birth world.
It is a strange baptism, but each time they are reborn into a different life. It is fitting they travel using water, through time and dimensions, to find that world that Murata remembered from lives long past. Water is life-giving, and he and Yuuri work on crafting new roles in New Mazoku.
He's not surprised they end up in the fountain again. Breaking the surface, he smiles as he watches Yuuri cheerfully greet his subordinates. Yuuri doesn't notice the near-worship on Gunter's face; he doesn't understand how he's managed to earn Gwendal's loyalty, or Wolfram's reluctant love. He sees Konrad smile at him, but doesn't know the price Konrad has already paid for Yuuri to be here, now.
Water should be pure, Murata knows - and no one is purer than Shibuya Yuuri, who believes in justice and that the good guys will always win. He is a fool, but since his dreams are something that every wants to believe in, he just might make them come true.
It would be easy to be jealous of the friendships Yuuri has developed, but Murata, too, is a bit like water. He is accepting, understanding that he cannot change his course alone, much like a river. Murata is a lake, deep and unfathomable. Still waters run deep, and he is depth less.
He smiles at Ulrike as she waits for him, her hands held modestly in front of her waist. She is his oldest friend; throughout his multiple lifetimes, she has always been there for him.
"Hello, your Highness," she says, her smile bright. She is apart from the chaos as Wolfram threatens Yuuri for some perceived act of infidelity. They both idly watch as the argument starts, which Murata knows will end in violence.
"How have things been?" he asks, deciding to let Konrad sort it out. It's too hard not to start laughing as Yuuri stutters, and he knows a wide smile is on his face.
"Reasonably well," she answers. "There's some movement on the Great Shimaron front, but nothing we haven't been able to handle." Then she lowers her eyes. "The fourth box has been found."
No one is paying attention to him, and it allows him the luxury of showing his fear on his face clearly. He knows, better than most, what that means. "It's another quest, then," he says softly, thinking things over in his head carefully.
He is used to manipulating those around him with his greater knowledge, but in the end, he knows that he is merely caught in the same current that moves them all. He may swim it with more strength, but there are times he fears drowning under its inexorable pull.
Ulrike places a tiny hand on his arm consolingly. "Have faith in the Original King," she says. "Everything will work out the way it should."
That, more than anything, is what Murata fears.
It takes minutes for them to be whisked inside, and dry clothing is provided immediately. It is amusing that their rather drab black uniforms have become the standard of royalty.
"Yuuri!" he hears Wolfram yell, and Murata looks up to see his friend being dragged back from a guard he had been trying to explain baseball to. The man had been looking at his ruler with luminescent eyes, entranced that the Maou would actually think him worthy of his time. No one's been able to make Yuuri understand the differences between classes, and people keep falling in love with him for his humility.
They're always handsome, Yuuri's suitors. He wonders if there is some kind of genetic trait the Mazoku possess that denies any hint of physical imperfection; besides them, his rather ordinary Asian looks pale. Each seems the ideal of some romantic fantasy, and it's up to Yuuri to decide which one he will indulge in. Of course, Yuuri would first need to acknowledge what's going on around him, and that's not likely to happen anytime soon.
Yuuri yelps in protest as Wolfram possessively yanks him away from the guard. Then they are arguing, and Murata finds a smile on his lips as he watches Wolfram make accusations while Yuuri tries to protest his innocence.
He finds he likes Wolfram, Yuuri's fiancé. There is an honesty about him that he enjoys - despite the fact he is much older than Yuuri, there's a childish insecurity in many of his actions, demanding that affection be reaffirmed again and again. That is balanced well by his concern, and while he may be impetuous, he is clever and skilled.
Wolfram is fire, and he suits Yuuri well. Of course, Yuuri would suit anyone well, because to know him is to love him. Wolfram, though, is special. Sometimes Murata imagines Yuuri and Wolfram sharing a bed, exploring each other with hands and lips as Yuuri learns about sex and sensuality, and how good it can feel to have someone you care for express it physically.
He pauses whenever he passes the royal bedchamber at night, listening to the indiscrete creak of bedsprings, but he never hears it. All there is Yuuri's snores and occasionally the muffled sound of a diatribe from Wolfram on Mazoku life as he tells Yuuri what an inconsiderate idiot he is.
As he is doing now.
"Yuuri, you're my fiancé! You shouldn't be so familiar with other people!" Wolfram is flushed a brilliant red, and seems ready to wrap his slender hands around Yuuri's equally slender neck.
"I wasn't! I was just talking about baseball!" Yuuri protests, holding his hands in front of himself protectively.
"Did you see how he was looking at you?" Wolfram retorts angrily. "You need to stop being such a blatant flirt!"
"But-" Yuuri is cut off when Wolfram clouts him over the head sharply.
"The next time I see you looking at someone else, you'll get worse!" Wolfram promises, his hands knit into tight fists as he leans forward belligerently. "Now come on, Gwendal has a report he needs to give you."
Murata can't help but chuckle as Yuuri whimpers, defeated.
When he was little, he was always smarter than his classmates. He didn't understand at first why he had so much extra knowledge to draw upon, but as he aged, his memories fell more and more into place, and he recalled his previous lives. Murata understands he is an old soul. This world, this earth, wasn't his original one. The first life he remembered was that of the Great Sage, but it was very possible he's lived lives prior to that.
He had lived before; he will live again. There was a strange patience that came with that certainty. He knew this life would not be the end of his soul, but he realized he should enjoy it anyway. Water is changeable, and so Murata learned to change himself. He accepted the roll of class nerd, because it was easier than fighting with the current. Accept it, and flow onward.
His childhood wasn't unpleasant, completely unexceptional in all ways. His parents are normal humans, neither knowing exactly what they have given life to. He is a cuckoo in the nest, he sometimes felt, so he tried to repay them for their kindness by becoming their ideal son - studious and thoughtful, he was polite and reliable.
He was fifteen when he met Shibuya Yuuri. It wasn't one of his finer moments.
The first day of high school was busy, and he felt lost among the press of the crowd. Something inside of his mind - that small corner he squished his memories of past lives into like sardines in a can - was itching, trying to warn him that something was going to happen.
He was smaller than many of his peers, and it came as no surprise when he was shoved into a the wall as the crowd moved toward their first class. It was like swimming in a school of fish, hoping that he could keep pace.
He finally found his classroom, 1-C, with only three minutes to spare. He was in a hurry, so he didn't bother to look around, merely sliding into a vacant seat. A hand nudged him from the side, and he braced himself, knowing he was about to get "initiated" into the school. He was too nerdy to play any roll but the freak, but he'd been hoping it could be avoided for a bit.
Turning, his jaw almost dropped. He recognized Yuuri for what he was immediately. He could see, even with his eyes closed, the power that Yuuri had bottled up. It scared and entranced him at the same time - and Yuuri was completely clueless about his true nature.
"Can I borrow a pencil?" Yuuri asked. "I seem to have forgotten mine." He put his hand behind his head, blushing a bit in embarrassment. "Great way to start the school year, huh?"
He spent about thirty seconds staring at him, unable to think of anything to say. Of all the questions he would have expected a future Maou to ask, that was about the bottom of the list. He wondered if it was some kind of test.
"Are you okay?" Yuuri leaned forward a bit, placing his hand on Murata's forehead familiarly. "You don't look so hot."
Murata realized he was staring, and forced himself to move. He could think later - now he had to act normal, and not think about the blush that was blooming on his face. He dug through his impeccably organized bag to produce a mechanical pencil, the expensive kind. He didn't bother to ask for its return, instead handing it over without ceremony. "H-here," he managed to stammer.
"Thanks!" Yuuri said cheerfully, removing his hand. "Nervous about the new school, huh? I'm Shibuya Yuuri," he continued, before smiling. He ducked his head in a brief bow of greeting. "It's nice to meet you!"
The smile was Murata's undoing. He shouldn't have fallen in love with the future Maou, but he did anyway.
He understands Konrad better than anyone else.
Konrad, he knows, is as bound to duty as Murata himself, and just as loyal. His gentleness is at brash odds with his swordsmanship, but in the end, it is all for Yuuri's sake - and both of them would do anything to make Yuuri happy.
Sometimes Murata wonders what Julia had been like. He knows at times her soul shines through Yuuri, but he hears stories of the great lady, and is sometimes unable to reconcile them with the Yuuri he knows. His Yuuri is just such a klutz.
Then Yuuri will do something brave and amazing, and Murata thinks he sees shadows of Yuuri's former life, but he's never able to be sure. People are never exactly the same between lives. He wonders, though, if Konrad can see Julia in Yuuri.
He never asks.
Konrad is a strong man, Murata knows, because he always treats Yuuri as someone who is worthy of listening to. It's quite an accomplishment, because Yuuri is young and often foolish, but his heart is in the right place. Konrad is the one who guides him most.
He watches the pair play baseball late at night, the moonlight providing little illumination. Konrad's throws are steady and sure, delighting Yuuri who is a baseball otaku. Yuuri had tried to convince Murata to play as well, but he tactfully declined, knowing that baseball was Konrad's and no one else's.
He can hear the soft murmur of conversation as Yuuri expresses his concerns over their latest expedition. They leave tomorrow, and he wants reassurence that Konrad will not leave him this time.
Konrad's answering smile is heart-warming, but Yuuri is too used to people loving him to notice the depth of emotion in Konrad's eyes. "I will stay by your side as long as you need me," he promises, his voice tender.
"Really? No matter what happens?" Yuuri is practically begging.
Murata would point out what an insult his question was, if he was close by. Instead, he wraps his arm around his upper body, feeling inexplicably cold.
Konrad slides his glove off, before coming close enough to touch Yuuri. His hand lands on a slender shoulder comfortingly. "I live to serve the Maou," he says. "I will do whatever you need me to."
Murata is smart enough to catch the way Konrad twists his words, but Yuuri wants desperately to believe. "Thank you, Konrad," he says, his eyes softening as his face lights up with the smile that Murata was so weak for.
A presence comes to Murata's side, and he can tell by the light cinnamon scent that it is Wolfram. Turning his head slightly, he smiles. "Is it Yuuri's bedtime?"
The pink nightgown Wolfram is so fond of is foppish and feminine, but at the moment, he only looks fragile instead of silly. "In a bit," he says softly, resting his hand on the railing. His expression is sad as he watches his half brother and fiancé together, unaware of his gaze upon them.
It is times like this that Murata knows his is not the only heart at stake. No matter what happens, there will be no perfect ending. Water will keep moving, though, so he doesn't say anything, knowing that someday the story will rush to its completion. There's no need to hurry.
He knew when Yuuri first went to the other world, watching in resigned horror as Yuuri was dragged away. He could feel the swell of magic in his skin, and he shut his eyes, knowing that their calm universe was about to get upended.
It was a Tuesday. Such an innocent, innocent day.
Getting flushed down a toilet wasn't stylish or cool like the Maou deserved, but Murata thought it suited Yuuri perfectly. Yuuri might have been born to rule, but someone forgot to tell him that. So he was an idiot, a klutz, and so painfully earnest that people end up wanting to follow him because he meant no harm. His honesty, his sense of justice, his innocence made people unable to resist trying to make him happy. People were purified through Yuuri, in a strange fashion.
It was only a blink of the eye before Yuuri returned, unconscious, but for Murata it was an eternity.
The boy who returned was not the Yuuri he had first met. There was something more serious about him, a thoughtfulness that was at extreme odds with his usual sunny personality. Murata didn't point it out, instead deciding that he would help best by just being Yuuri's friend. If Yuuri acted oddly, he tactfully ignored it, occasionally covering up for him whenever he slipped. Did Yuuri really think Murata was that oblivious?
Most likely. Yuuri wasn't good at understanding people's motives; he just believed that everyone had good intentions. He was a poor ruler, but made all his subjects his friends. If not for the Maou personality that slept beneath his surface, he would have already come to a sticky end.
Murata wondered sometimes how much of Yuuri was actually the Maou. He'd seen the impressive justice-loving aspect surface, and was caught breathless by the power he wielded. It was scary that someone like Yuuri could contain that within them; someone ruled by their heart, not their mind.
It always feels a bit like going on vacation each time one of Yuuri's expeditions sets off. He blows off work, dumping it in Gwendal's capable hands, and then turns to his usual partners, happy to be doing something he believes he understands.
Gunter refuses to remain behind this time, but Anissina deals with that quite capably. One whack from her newest invention (which looked cute and sinister at the same time) and he had been turned into a woman. His hysterical screams rung through the entire castle, and Gwendal calmly knocks him out before telling Yuuri that it's unfortunate, but Gunter will have to stay.
Murata isn't sure if he's more disappointed or relieved.
Their retinue keeps expanding, but it is inevitable that Yuuri will somehow be separated from most of them in some fantastic blunder. Murata doesn't bother pointing this out, since Yuuri always ends up with the right person for the mission. Luck, too, becomes a Maou.
As they prepared to depart, Murata sneaks a glance at the sky. It is going to rain by noon, and keep raining for several days. He's not particularly fond of getting wet, but there is no stopping a quest. Yuuri is too stubborn and optimistic to listen to reason.
Murata remembers, from past lives, how to ride a horse but Yuuri never had that. His soul may be Julia's, but he will never remember what she knew. Their existences are too separate.
Yuuri wraps his arms around Wolfram's waist, his chin jutting out stubbornly. He will never admit he can't do anything, and so will suffer the saddle sores without complaint. Wolfram is kinder than most would expect; he's left his favorite horse, Favien, stabled and switched to Phyllis, a sweet mare with a gentler stride.
"Are we ready?" Yuuri calls cheerfully, glancing around at his companions with eagerness. He clearly can't wait to get underway; right now, the sky is clear above them, and the temperature is pleasant.
"I think so, your Majesty," Konrad assures him, riding up to flank his ruler. He controls his horse with his knees, a subtle sign of skill that is only obvious to the experienced. Yuuri doesn't understand how talented his friend is.
"Good!" Yuuri waves to Gwendal, who is being choked by a sobbing Gunter. "Keep an eye on things for me, okay?" It's a rhetorical question, but Gwendal nods seriously in reply.
Phyllis shuffles a bit, and Yuuri squeaks in response, shutting his eyes as he clings more tightly to Wolfram. Wolfram mutters under his breath about incompetents, but glances back with an almost gentle look in his eyes.
Yuuri manages to regain his composure, lifting a hand in the air. "Well, then, let's get this show on the road!" he announces grandly.
Murata nudges his horse, and moves into position behind Wolfram and Yuuri. After taking note of where the others were riding, he tunes out most of the general babble. All he can hear is Yuuri's voice, babbling grandiose plans for making the world better. Wisely, Murata doesn't say anything. This is not a storm he wants to break, at least not until it has to.
He knows, someday, that the passage to New Mazoku will close, and Shibuya Yuuri will be forced to remain on Earth. The day when the adventures will end is coming. He can imagine Yuuri's grief, and knows that he will be the only consolation. Someday he will be the only one for Yuuri to love. He understands that Wolfram and Konrad will both remain in his heart, their phantoms sharing the bed.
He knows, and he accepts. Even having a fraction of Yuuri's heart is more than most people will ever own. It is worth it, he tells himself every time he sees Yuuri smile at someone else. All he must do is wait. The ocean is endless, and so is Murata's patience.