Blood Pledge Castle
Ten Years Later
Sunlight shone slanted through the high windows of Anissina's laboratory, making the glass beakers and welded metal twinkle in the early light. The air was fresh and only hinted at yesterday's minor mishap with the calibration of rub-my-feet-kun and Anissina was eager to get a few hours of peace and productivity in before the menarrived.
Still, if she was honest with herself, she did feel bad for worrying them so much yesterday. Both kings had arrived panting and pale-faced minutes apart, demanding to know if she was alright. Demanding to know if their child was alright.
Anissina couldn't blame them for being so worried. Not only was this process still highly experimental, but they had already suffered two failures. The first Anissina hadn't even told them about, it had been so early that no one had noticed but...
Anissina had never been slowed down by failures before and she wasn't about to start now. Especially when the results had become so spectacular. So full of hope.
Gisela would be in for her morning check soon, but so far there had been no signs of irregularity with the pregnancy. A mixture of Earth science and her own unsurpassed genius had made it possible. The relevant genetic information had been taken from both Yuuri and Wolfram and placed within her own egg. For once Anissina's lack of magic had been a blessing. Since it was so low on its own, it wouldn't interfere with the twice-daily doses of magic she got from the fathers-to-be.
Anissina sighed and shifted on the high wooden stool she sat on, before reaching down to rub her sore and swollen ankles.
"Have they gotten any better?" Gisela asked from the doorway. "You know I can't use my magic but I can make a rub of pepper butter-"
"Don't worry," Anissina huffed. "I'll live."
Gisela chuckled at her as she made her way into the room and plopped her bag of medicine onto Anissina's work table. "I'm sure you will." Her face had already softened as she smiled and looked at how round Anissina was getting.
Anissina turned in her seat so the other woman could have an easier time poking her and checking on the Little Experiment. "I suppose it was silly of me to think I could get some work in this morning."
Gisela shook her head. "You might have some luck, yet. Their Majesties are quite distracted with Princess Greta's departure. Humans grow up so fast..."
"They do." Anissina agreed, ignoring the sadness in the other woman's eyes. The Little Experiment had called Gisela back from Caloria. No one but the best could be trusted to handle such a delicate matter. "I can't believe they agreed to have the wedding in Shou Shimeron."
"It makes sense though," Gisela countered. "The people still trust Camilio. Even if Wilfrido is his younger brother and rightful heir by human laws he still grew up in Shin Makoku and is marrying a 'demon' princess. Hopefully by having the wedding there at least the people of Shou Shimeron will know their prince places some value on his homeland."
"I never said it didn't make sense." Anissina smirked. "I only said I can't believe her fathers agreed to it."
Gisela smiled and rolled her eyes. "Of course. Well, another day and you're perfectly healthy. The both of you. If you want I can leave you to your work."
Anissina looked longingly at the recovered parts for rub-my-feet-kun. She might have a few hours yet...
"I'll see myself out," Gisela sighed, smile still tugging at her lips. "I'll see you this afternoon."
"Thank you," Anissina called out before the door closed, already intent on dislodging a bit of metal from a rubber spring.
She was able to make an hour's progress before a craving for pork pudding brought her down the winding stairs to the kitchens where she found Sir Grier flirting with the kitchen girls while he slipped oatmeal cookies into a leather pouch.
He gave her a not-so-guilty look and winked. "Good morning, Lady Anissina. You're looking quite round."
Anissina glared and crossed her arms under her breasts. "You'll be the round one if you eat all those cookies."
Sir Grier laughed. "True enough. I thought I'd take some extra for the road. You won't tell on me will you?"
"I don't think anyone minds about the cookies, but if you're not careful I'll tell Sir Weller how you were getting them." To Sir Grier's left one of the girls tittered behind her hand.
"But Anissina," he whined. "They're the captain's favorite."
She rolled her eyes. "Go on, then."
He kissed her on the cheek as he left and Anissina rubbed the wetness away with the back of her hand and grumbled. She had expected Wolfram and Yuuri to be all lovey and ridiculous but having Yozak and Conrad making eyes across the table was almost too much at times. It felt like everyone was pairing off around her.
She rubbed the swell of her stomach. At least she had someone too now. For a while at least before she had to...
Anissina blinked back the tears as she plopped a large portion of pudding into a bowl. Stupid hormones. At least she knewshe was being irrational. Now she only had to make the feelings stop.
When she returned to her lab Lucien was standing guard beside the door and Anissina knew that Greta would be inside waiting for her. Anissina still had to blink every time she saw her. Even now Anissina expected to see the little girl who used to help her with experiments and run around the castle with her kitten, not the grown woman who was standing in her lab now, long brown hair twisted up into a bun to protect it from the dirt of the road.
"Anissina!" Greta grinned and ran to hug her once she was spotted. At least some things didn't change. "Oh I'm so glad I got to see you before I left. I'm half afraid Wolfram and Yuuri will change their mind if we don't leave soon." She pulled away to rub Anissina's belly. "At least they'll have someone else to over-protect in a few months." She chewed her lip. "Someone who won't get wrinkles before they do."
Anissina drew the girl in for another hug. "No one will ever replace you in their hearts. You know that."
Greta smiled and rubbed her eyes. "I know. I'll miss you. I'll miss everyone." She forced a laugh. "It will be nice not to be the only one growing while the world stands still around me."
"It will also be nice to finally marry that stableboy of yours, I imagine."
Greta blushed. "That too." She moved away to lean against one of the work tables. "You know, I wish you'd talk to Gwendal."
Anissina's cheeks went hot. "I talk to Gwendal all the time."
"That's not what I meant," Greta pushed. "He's old and stubborn and a 'man'. He needs you to talk to him if there's any chance of-"
"Greta," Anissina interrupted. She didn't have to say anything else. The girl stopped and sighed and came over to give her a final hug. "Take care of yourself," Anissina sighed into the girl's hair. "I know they're sending Conrad to guard you which means you're getting Yozak as well but be careful. You may be a human but those people will always see you for a mazoku princess."
"I know." Greta kissed her cheek. "I'll be careful." She drew away and looked at the door. "I'd hoped Lucien would be able to protect me too- he offered- but with the houseki..."
"You made the right decision," Anissina said. "Besides, if I recall Wilfrido was starting to get jealous."
"Oh, please," Greta huffed. "Boys are so ridiculous."
"That they are," Anissina agreed. "Now run along and save Wilfrido from your fathers. I'll be down with the rest to see you off in a bit."
"I'll come back to visit, you know," she said at the door. "I promise."
Anissina nodded and watched her go, not trusting her voice. The castle already felt empty without her.
Even from her tower Anissina could hear the horses and carriages being prepared in the courtyard down below. Filling them with crates of wedding presents and other things the princess would require to set up the life she was accustomed to in her new home. It was a good thing they would only have to carry them to the docks. A procession that laden with goods would take months to reach Shou Shimeron at a grueling pace, but it was only a week's journey by Lady Cheri's Free Love.
Anissina fiddled with a broken portion of the small engine she had made for her latest experiment and sighed, tightening her grip on the screwdriver she held when she heard the knock outside her door. Just when she was starting to get things done.
"What is it?" She didn't bother looking up.
Heavy boots clicked toward her. "You didn't ask for my help yesterday."
Anissina humphed. "You didn't want to help." She didn't doubt that it was true. She hadn't been able to find Gwendal yesterday when she had wanted to test her latest invention and so she had convinced Dorcascus to use his magic. She shouldn't have been so impatient.
Gwendal sat in the stool beside her. "I was in the barn. There was another litter."
Suddenly there was a small fluffy ball in her lap. Eyes closed and squirming. "You idiot! Where's the mother."
"She didn't make it." Gwendal's voice was soft. "I thought we could figure something out for this one."
Anissina sighed and closed her eyes. Gwendal always did have an impressive soft-spot when it came to cute things. "I'll do what I can." She opened her eyes and looked at the little orange fluff ball. It seemed to know she was watching so it squeaked as it shivered closer into the cup of her hand. "Poor creature."
"Hmm." Gwendal nodded gravely and reached toward her. She was sure he was going to take the kitten but instead he grabbed her leg and pulled her foot into his lap. She was about to yell and snatch it back but then he started rubbing.
"If you stop I'll kill you," she said instead and let her eyes fall shut.
Gwendal chuckled and rubbed his thumb into the arch of her foot. "You always did have the cutest toes."
"Idiot." Anissina blushed. "Don't say things like that."
Gwendal didn't say anything, but the silence in the room was comfortable and Anissina was already thinking of ways to make goat's milk more suitable for a kitten.
Thank you so much for reading! Every comment has meant so much to be and been so encouraging! It will be so strange not writing Whispers anymore. I can't believe it took me five years. And I wouldn't even have been able to do it in five years without melusine474who has been encouraging me since before the prologue was ever published. *hugs*
I never expected to meet as many people and experience so much generosity as I have through this fic. The people who submitted art- who betaed when I was in a pinch- who donated money so everyone could see this site without adds- there simply aren't enough words for thank you.
Next is the abridged version! I am planning to release a PDF abridged version of Whispers some time in the future so keep an eye out for it on my livejournal. My writing changed in five years and I want to make it all more streamlined.
I will keep posting fic on my livejournal and when the time for fic strikes me, but it has been my dream for a long time now to write my own fantasy novel and I want to focus on that as my main goal. *Spoiler* can you guess who were the prototypes for the main couple? Lucien and Marques might even keep their names... though Marques might become Markus... or some other M name with less ambiguous pronunciation. Thank you for putting up with the OCs in Whispers! And the OWorlds like Gael. I learned a lot from everyone's feedback that I will certainly use in the future!
If any progress happens on Real!Book I will post it here as well, so wish me luck!
Thank you all!