(I do not own Kyou Kara Maou.)
Whispers from the Rye
Main Pairing: Wolfram/Yuuri (Multiple side pairings)
Warnings: Graphic Sex and violence.
Setting: Post Season Two of Anime. Does not take into account OVAs or Season Three. Saralegui in this story should be looked at as AU, and is not influenced other than character design by the original.
Beta: Melusine474. Seriously, without her, this wouldn't even be readable. At all. Not only because of her brilliant grammar and punctuation editing skills, but also because of how simply motivational she is to write with. I have spent hours and hours talking to her about every aspect of this story, and without having someone who understood the world I was trying to create from the beginning I might not have had the devotion to share it with the rest of you. She has been so wonderfully patient with me and puts in a lot of work to make this readable. I could write an essay on her awesome, but that would only keep you from the story longer. In short, my love for her is epic and without her this wouldn't have been possible.
You're only hurting yourself. He's gone. Can't things go back to the way they were? I've missed you.
I'm sorry you have found your current assignment so disappointing. If it is too difficult for you to work so close to this castle I will make arrangements for you to head more distant operations. I hope I have made myself clear on this matter and it will never come up again.
Wolfram von Bielefeld, fiancé of Shibuya Yuuri, Maou.
Yuuri was back.
Word of his return reached Blood Pledge Castle before the young Maou had changed out of his wet clothing. The response was immediate, like the first rain after a drought. There was hope again. No longer would the peace so clumsily attained by the child-like king be in question. No longer would the pain felt by those who loved him most seep into the cold stone of the castle, making every turn along its corridors a memory that could never be relived. No longer could she be part of a family that had eluded her for over a century.
For Anissina, Yuuri's return was bittersweet. It wasn't that she didn't love Yuuri, as all those who met him were wont to do, she just happened to love other people more. As was the failing of most beautiful women, the redhead was selfish, and if Yuuri's absence meant that she could be closer to Gwendal and the broken family of a fiancé and daughter the king had left behind, then so be it.
It was probably better this way. Since Yuuri left she had been able to spend more time with Gwendal, which was always a painful and disappointing waste of energy. He was always 'too busy' to help her with her experiments, which of course meant she had to make him help, which led to him complaining and making even the most amazing examples of her genius seem inadequate. That was one of the reasons she had felt the need to shelter her ex-lover's youngest brother. Whether the selfish loafer knew it or not they shared the same hurt. They both loved someone who would never love them back.
Decades ago she had had her entire future planned out. She would marry Gwendal and help keep his family in some state of working order despite his floozy of a mother. Gwendal would stop working wrinkles deeper into his forehead every day and take time off to be with her. They would have a child soon enough that Wolfram would have someone close to his age to play with. Conrad wouldn't have to play the dejected father figure and Gwendal wouldn't have to be a father to his mother's child. They would all have been so happy.
She would have been able to do all that and have plenty of time to work on the other loves of her life, her inventions. Unfortunately, Gwendal had not been so optimistic about his path. The path of a soldier, of a general; the path he took to a place away from her. Men. Their minds were so small that they could only focus on one thing. And in Gwendal's case it was war. Preventing it, creating it, training for it; all his life revolved around the strategy, pain, and exhilaration of it. Foolish.
Since then she had done some growing up and realized that such dreams were childish and impossible. The only way to find happiness is to make it yourself. Depending on others, especially men, is a waste of time.
As time went on she focused more and more on her inventions, spending most of her days creating ways for the world to be a better place; a place where wars could be fought by machines and neither mazoku nor humans had to die for the sake of stupid male quarrels.
The most infuriating aspect of her plans for greatness was the lack of enthusiasm of those around her. The men around her. They ran, literally ran, from their inability to cope with the magnitude of her genius inventions. After all, her inventions had saved everyone on numerous occasions and she hardly got so much as a thank you. If it hadn't been for her banana boat everyone would probably be dead. Killed by the berserker Soushi in Shinou's body… in Yuuri's body. It was all stupid. Just more 'man' quarrels. None of the people causing all these problems had been women and that was no coincidence.
Yuuri had made things more interesting for her bountiful creative mind when he was in Shin Makoku. The boy was always running off trying to get himself killed or dragging half of the highest court off on one goose chase or another. It had been great inspiration. Now things were a bit harder. Anissina had been working on a present for Wolfram since breakfast and she had only managed to fog up her laboratory with the smoke from her latest work in progress: 'Let it all out so you can move on to something better-kun'. It was her attempt to keep the selfish loafer from tearing up all over the castle. This way he could spray himself in the face each morning and his tear ducts would exhaust themselves and he wouldn't have to make everyone else around him even more uncomfortable with his constant moping. As soon as she got the smoke to the right potency she would make the expulsion device, perhaps something resembling an onion. Wolfram would be so grateful.
And as soon as Wolfram cheered up she wouldn't have to feel so bad about making fun of him. As a child he had been such fun to tease, but now it was just pathetic, like some sort of dying puppy. He spent days just moping about or painting, which was just an excuse to think about his missing fiancé without feeling like he was spending all day thinking about him. No one mentioned this to his face, but the rumors about just how broken the young mazoku had become fluttered about the castle. It made him look weak, like a child who lost his favorite toy and was going to be an ass about it until someone brought it back. Acting like an ass had always got him what he wanted when he was a child, however, so it was hardly a surprise that he still exhibited such faults into young adulthood. Anissina blamed his mother for that. He's crying? Just give him a new toy. Wonderful parenting.
Cecilie's attempts at parenting aside, the selfish loafer did seem to be making an effort to raise Greta. Though in truth at least half the castle was engaged in raising the energetic girl, Wolfram paid her particular attention. He had started giving her riding lessons soon after Yuuri's disappearance, insisting she "wasn't going to inherit any of her other father's wimpy qualities". And the two of them spent many afternoons riding around the grounds or making jewelry out of flowers. More recently he had caved to his daughter's constant pleas and started training her with a sword, something Anissina's novels had had absolutely nothing to do with no matter what the boy Wolf said.
At first the two had managed to comfort each other equally, but soon it was clear to Anissina that Wolfram was spending the majority of his time looking for his daughter while Greta was finding her way into the kitchens or up into her lab with increasing frequency. The redhead smiled fondly at the memory of an instance that had taken place two months earlier.
It was still early in the afternoon when Greta wandered in, clutching the doorframe with apprehension and looking up at her with large brown eyes. No words were necessary; Anissina simply smiled at the girl and put down a beaker she was holding and Greta was by her side dressed in a large grin.
"What should we read today, Anissina?" the child gushed before springing up onto the workbench the scientist had been seated on. Her legs were too short to sit properly so she swung them in childish exuberance while Anissina answered.
"Hummm… well, we've already read all my stories, why don't you help me make up a new one?"
Greta nodded enthusiastically, "Yes! How will Anissina-san save the day this time?"
Anissina smiled slightly before bringing a finger to her lips in contemplation. "Since it's been a while why don't we spice things up by adding another character?" She made a show of eyeing the girl to her right. "How about a young brunette, whose skills with a sword are unmatched by any man?"
The little girl squealed in delight, kicking her legs even faster. "Sounds great! And they can go on adventures far far away and fight sorcerers and evil men and they'll have so much fun that they'll never have to go home."
"Never go home? What about all their fans who'll want to glorify them with yummy cakes and lengthy ballads?"
"No, they'll never come home because—"
The door squeaked and two pairs of eyes focused on the figure in the hallway. Greta grabbed onto Anissina's skirt with her nearest hand and shrunk down into her chair. The smile stayed on her face, but it lacked its normal exuberance.
Wolfram's step faltered. "Oh…"
Anissina could feel the little fingers pulling the fabric of her skirt tighter. Greta spoke quickly, "Anissina-san is letting me help her write a story and it's going to be so exciting, but you can't hear it until it's finished, okay Wolfram?"
Wolfram's smile was as fake as his daughters, "That does sound exciting, I can hardly wait! Be sure to run and tell me as soon as it's finished." His eyes shifted to the floor before he turned and left.
Both girls were silent until the echo of his footsteps could no longer be heard. Only then did Greta release her grip on Anissina.
"Greta—", she started in a worried tone.
"—And they'll never come back because they'll be having so much fun that nothing else will matter. They'll keep saving the kingdom, but they'll never go home. Because no matter how safe the kingdom is… the people in the castle are always sad… and they won't want to come back, because then they'd have to be sad too…" The girl's head was bent, hair covering most of her face.
For a moment Anissina was furious with both of the girl's fathers, Yuuri for leaving, and Wolfram being unable to cope with it. Why did young women always have to cry over the mistakes of men? They were just so selfish. Men.
She reached out, placing a hand on the girl's shoulder, "Greta don't—"
"It's not fair!" There were tears in her eyes, welling up in the corners and refusing to fall. "Why don't I get to be sad! Everyone's telling me not to be upset, especially Wolfram, but it's not fair that he gets to be sad all the time."
"Now Greta, don't interrupt." Her voice was stern, yet comforting. "Wolfram acts like he's younger than you, so don't pay attention to him. He's acting like a child, and I know you and your father lost the most when Yuuri left, but he didn't leave because he wanted to make you unhappy, he left because it was what he thought he had to do. Men make stupid decisions all the time, but even if the decisions are stupid and they hurt your feelings, you can't let them upset you for very long. I'm sure Yuuri thinks about you every day, and how do you think he would feel if he knew how miserable you and Wolfram are making each other? Most of it is his fault, for making you feel crowded, but you shouldn't avoid him, it just makes him more leaky."
"But Anissina, I can't do anything. He's just always so sad, and that makes me feel worse because…" Tears spilled from her glossy eyes and splashed onto her little dress. She spoke near a whisper, "…because I'm afraid I don't love Yuuri enough, because… I miss him, I really really do, but I just want to think about other things sometimes. What if I'm a bad daughter? What if I don't love him enough?!" Her body shook slightly as her small frame tried to absorb the sounds of her sobs.
Anissina pulled the little girl up into her lap, waiting for the tears to stop before she spoke. "You love your father plenty, you don't have to worry about something silly like that. You're doing the right thing, Yuuri wouldn't want you to spend all your time being sad. Wolfram being upset all the time doesn't mean he loves Yuuri any more than you do. It means he's selfish. He's upsetting you and everyone else around him because he won't move on with his life."
"You make him sound so bad. He doesn't mean to upset anyone."
"He might not mean it, but he really is being stupid about realizing how his actions affect those around him. But I guess that's not completely his fault. He didn't choose to be a man, and men are naturally inclined to be stupid…"
"But what can I do to make it better."
"Stop avoiding him." Greta moved to speak but Anissina shushed her. "I know he's not much fun to play with lately, but you're his favorite person so he needs you to make him happy right now." She sighed and spoke partially to herself, "It really is a pity when children have to take care of their parents, but it happens all the time."
Greta hugged her silently and slid off her lap onto the floor, "Thank you, Anissina." Her voice was warm and hinted determination, "I'll come see you again tomorrow, alright?"
"Of course," Anissina smiled and watched the girl hurry out of the room.
After Greta left, Anissina went back to her work. It was a lovely day for inventing and the sun shone brightly into her lab, striping elongated rectangles of light from the windows across the floor. Time went by and the light receded, leaving the various bulbs scattered about the machines as the only source of light. They were bright enough to work by, but shadows danced in the corners of the room. The whizzes and hums of her inventions always helped her create, but she was so absorbed with worrying about Greta that she hardly got anything done. Her stomach growled and she had just decided to go down to the kitchens when there was a knock on her door.
Without waiting for an answer, Wolfram poked his head in, surveying the room. Anissina put her hands on her hips and waited for him to see her.
"You keep it so dark in here at night," he said, words bubbling to the surface through obvious fatigue. Wolfram walked into the room and leaned against the wall across from her, crossing his arms in front of his chest. Again, his eyes had fallen to the floor.
Anissina sighed. Greta must have told Wolfram about their earlier conversation, and now she would have to explain things to the selfish loafer all night. Not only that but she would have to forego the thought of dinner anytime soon. Her stomach rumbled in displeasure at the thought. Really! The nerve of him, coming in here to complain. The boy Wolf must really have nothing better to do at all. And to think he was going to admonish her for raising his daughter right. Men.
Her eyebrow twitched in discontent.
Wolfram finally broke the silence, looking hopefully up at her from across the room. "Does she talk to you? You know… about…"
Anissina opened her mouth to speak, but was interrupted.
"No. I know you can't tell me any of it. That's fine… It's just… Good to know she's talking to someone is all." He looked away again, fingers visibly digging into his arms where he held them.
Her anger melted. Was it possible that Wolfram was merely acting like a concerned parent? She would have to give him more credit in the future. Still, her suspicion remained.
She spoke sharply, "Stop that!"
Green eyes flashed up at her in confusion.
"Stop looking like you're about to cry all the time. You're a man, you have enough failings already to add constant weeping, act like one." Shaking her finger at him she added, "Greta's worried about you and it's hardly her place to do so. Yuuri's gone and you need to start acting like an adult about it."
Wolfram looked at her as if she had just said the most offensive thing he had ever heard. "You too, Anissina?" he seethed, "Everyone thinks I've just been moping around hoping that Yuuri is just going to pop out of the bath one day. Well fine. You just think that—"
"Ha!" she laughed. "Do you deny it?"
"Why should I bother? After all, I'm just a selfish loafer." Although he hadn't raised his voice the air around him crackled and the temperature in the room rose dramatically.
Anissina blushed slightly at the use of his own nickname, but she continued her verbal assault. How else could she test her hypothesis? "What? You disagree? You've been spending all day moping since he left and it's pathetic. If being engaged for so long without marriage didn't ruin your reputation how is acting like a broken shell of a man going to help it? If I were you—"
"WELL YOU ARE NOT ME!" He had finally lost all semblance of resolve and was gesturing madly, tearing his vocal cords with volume. "Everyone has such PERCEPTIVE insights into my own psyche I hardly know who I should listen to. Well everyone is WRONG and—"
"No one understands me, wah wah", she mocked.
Wolfram moved towards her and Anissina was worried for a moment she had gone too far. He stood right in front of her, green eyes piercing her own, his words were tight, each one forced into low tones by the clench in his jaw. "What do you suppose I do, Anissina? For myself? Greta? Should I find some woman to marry to give her a mother? Should I leave her with someone more capable and drown myself in what small militaristic tasks that can be found during this oh-so-convenient time of peace?" He smiled bitterly and the scarcity of light left his face in eerie shadow. When the smile left, his passion had too, as if the content of his words had taken what little spirit he had left. If ever Wolfram von Beliefeld looked like a child it was now, green eyes jaded beyond hope. "Not all of this is mindless self pity. It's the pain of trying to move forward with a broken heart." The voice that had fallen to a whisper struck up briefly in a final attempt to distract from the weakness shown by the honesty of its words. He was bitter, lashing out at what had made him dwell on sadness. "You should have some empathy in this situation, right Anissina?"
She frowned and deliberately ignored his allusion to her own romantic history. She was happy he had offended her though; it kept the proud smile from twitching up the corners of her mouth. "You should be better at presenting a face for others. You wear your emotions on your sleeve and it hurts you."
He glared at her. She glared right back.
Wolfram looked away first, crossing his arms, "Fine. But whatever everyone may think I am making an effort."
"Try harder then." she smirked at him.
As soon as the incredulous expression left his face he smiled back at her, "My my Anissina, I never thought you were so bitter."
"My my, I never thought you were so reasonable."
After one last look of appraisal he turned, corners of his mouth still tilted upwards, and walked toward the door. Before he left he looked back at her where she stood in front of her experiments, beaming triumphantly and spoke, "I'm glad she talks to you." Then he left, appearing, in Anissina's opinion, much more alive than he had when he'd entered.
She remembered looking at the singe he had left on the wall. It still hadn't been covered, but that was alright because she sort of liked it there--
The red-head's thoughts were interrupted when the door swung open, hitting the wall with a loud crack.
"Did you hear?! Did you hear?!" Greta ran to her, capturing Anissina's legs in a surprisingly strong hug for a girl her size. "It's Yuuri. Yuuri is back! He's back. I knew he would come back, he always comes back! Ohh Anissina did you hear?!"
Anissina looked down at the smiling face framed with curly brown hair. "Yes I heard. Your father has come back and you have every right to be excited, but remember what I taught you about men who leave?"
"They aren't worth worry or tears." was the child's diligent reply. "But Yuuri didn't leave, Annisina, he came back. He came back." Her smile was so large that the older woman was worried the little one's face would cramp up.
"Yes, Greta. He came back." She smiled down at the child. It was a peaceful smile, but a sad one. Now that her father was home she probably wouldn't get to spend as much time with the girl. It was such a pity; she was smart and had great potential. "Why don't you go down to meet him by the gate, I'm sure he can't wait to see you. It's been nearly a year since he left, he'll be surprised at how much you've grown."
"Why don't you come with me?"
"I'll come in a minute. I just want to finish something quickly and clean up, because what happens when we leave a messy lab?"
"Someone will touch something they shouldn't and the castle will blow up."
"Exactly right. And how do you think Yuuri would feel coming home to a blown up castle?"
"All right." The girl conceded and hurried back the way she came. "Clean up as soon as you can!" she beamed, before closing the door and running down the hallway. Her little steps were audible for a moment before Annisina was left to clean up in the comforting humms and whizzes of her lab.