Temple of the Winds 14
Note: First, my sincerest apologies for the delay. No excuses – my muse got severely distracted, and it took a long while before she'd let me go on with this story. Nevertheless, I do very much intend to finish Temple of the Winds I just don't want to hurry the muse lest she sacrifices the story for speed.
When I started Temple of the Winds I had no idea it would evolve to more than ten chapters. My original idea was to write a short and sweet tale. But well, I guess this is how the story wanted to be written. It's been a great adventure, and a most fulfilling one. I'm glad that it has brought you pleasure, and I hope you enjoy the last few chapters! Thank you!
All disclaimers apply.
True to his promise, Wolfram presented himself at the nursery first thing in the morning. His reward was the way the little girl's whole face brightened up at the sight of him. Forsaking her maids, she ran to her father, her squeal of excitement so loud it could have wakened the whole palace, Wolfram thought fleetingly before he was heartily embraced.
"Wolfram, you're back!" There was no denying the joy and love in Greta's voice, and the blond knight swallowed hard as emotion threatened to swamp him. It was all he could do not to choke up as he hugged her tightly.
"Yes, Greta, I'm back." Was all he could say.
"Where have you been?" Greta drew back slightly to frown up at him. "You missed my birthday!" The accusation was laced with hurt.
Wolfram hugged her again. "I'm sorry, Greta." He apologized. "I wouldn't have missed it if I could." He said honestly.
"Really?" Greta eyed him narrowly.
"Knight's honor." Wolfram told her in a solemn voice. "I wanted to be here, Greta. More than anything."
Greta's frown lightened a tad, mollified by his sincerity.
"You made me cry." She informed him grudgingly. "And you made Yuuri cry too."
Wolfram's heart skipped a beat.
"It's true!" Greta insisted, mistaking his surprise for disbelief. "I'd never seen him so sad! He didn't smile the whole time you were gone. Not even once!"
Wolfram could see the vehement nodding of the maids from the corner of his eye. "I'm sure that's because he hated disappointing you on your birthday." He made an attempt at lightness, determined to ignore them and hoping the little girl would drop the issue.
But Greta wasn't quite done. "He was sad because he missed you very much." She told him pointedly. "He told me so." And as far as she was concerned Yuuri would never lie to her.
Wolfram cleared his throat, unwilling to dwell on the implications of the little girl's narrative. "Well, I'm back now, aren't I?" He said instead. "Why don't you let me make it up to you?" He offered with a faint smile. "We can go for a picnic after your lessons. We'll celebrate your birthday, just the two of us."
Greta whooped with glee, jumping up and down with excitement. "A picnic! A picnic! And a swim too, Wolfram!" She demanded loudly.
"Alright, alright." Wolfram was quite happy to oblige, anything to divert her from the topic of the Maou.
"Did I hear someone say 'picnic'?" A new voice joined in, and Wolfram's heart sank. So much for taking Greta's mind off Yuuri, he thought wryly as the dark-haired king himself entered the nursery. Green eyes met black, and for a moment their gaze held, before Yuuri crouched down to hug Greta and the contact was broken.
"Yuuri!" Greta flew off to hug her other father. "We're going on a picnic and a swim!"
"After your lessons with Anissina." Wolfram reminded her, his lips curving in an indulgent smile.
"That sounds like fun, Greta." Yuuri told his daughter fondly.
Greta's eyes brightened as an idea struck her. "Why don't you join us?" She suggested excitedly, beaming up at him.
Yuuri blinked, his eyes flying up to Wolfram's astonished face. He waited for a moment, but when the green gaze skittered away, he realized that no invitation was forthcoming. He forced himself to hide his disappointment and turned back to the small face eagerly awaiting his response.
"Sorry Greta, I have tons of studying to finish. Gunther claims that I'm far behind my studies already." Well, that was true too.
Greta frowned. "I know. Anissina told me that you hadn't studied at all while Wolfram was gone." She shot her blond father a telling glance before turning back to Yuuri with a pout. "But you can study again tomorrow." She pointed out. "Why can't we have a family picnic now that Wolfram's home?"
"Greta-" Yuuri put his hands on her shoulders. "you know I would love to go on a picnic with you and Wolfram –"
"Then come with us!"
"-but I have obligations I can't turn my back on." Yuuri told her firmly. "It's important that I learn everything I can about this world," he emphasized, "so that I don't make anymore stupid mistakes."
Wolfram bit his lip as he realized what Yuuri was referring to. Nor did he miss the gesture. Yuuri was making excuses in deference to his wishes. He frowned. Yuuri hadn't studied at all while he was at the Temple?
"No buts, Greta." Yuuri softened the refusal with a hug. "I promise we'll go on that picnic soon."
Greta sighed, her expression so woebegone that Wolfram immediately felt like a heel. He was being selfish, he realized, to deprive both father and daughter of an outing they obviously desired. He sighed inwardly.
"What's another hour or so delay in your studies?" He broke in. "You're so far behind already that I'm certain Gunther could be prevailed upon to let you off for a family picnic." He gazed down at Greta, knowing he'd made the right decision when she found her smile again. "But you, young lady," he added severely, "had better go on and do your lessons if you don't want to be the one to miss that picnic."
"Yay!" Greta cheered and ran off with her maids to find Anissina.
Alone now with Yuuri, Wolfram found himself curiously unable to meet the dark gaze.
"Thanks." Yuuri said into the awkward silence.
Wolfram shrugged and headed out of the nursery. "The picnic is to make-up for missing her birthday. She should be able to invite anyone she wishes to join in."
Yuuri fell into step with him. "She missed you terribly." He remarked carefully.
"I know." Wolfram took a deep breath. "I missed her too." Outside the nursery, he hesitated. His former routine would have him heading towards the training yard. But now…
Yuuri, however, didn't miss a beat. "Your trainees are waiting for you." He said, his tone leaving no doubt that he fully expected Wolfram to resume his former duties. Or at least, most of them.
Wolfram stared at him for a long moment. "It wasn't a coincidence that you turned up at the nursery, was it?" He asked finally.
Yuuri could feel the color climbing to his cheeks. His first instinct was to make light of the situation. However, the uncertainty lurking in the green gaze made him speak the truth in his heart. "It's your first day back at the castle; I thought you might appreciate the company." His smile was shy, but the light in his eyes were bold. "And I wanted to spend some time with you."
Wolfram drew in a quick breath. Last night Yuuri had made him promise to let him prove himself. And this morning he was already putting words into action. "You don't waste much time," he muttered.
Yuuri shrugged, his smile widening when the blond didn't show any sign of bolting. "I've wasted too much already." He stated simply.
Unbidden, warmth crept into Wolfram's heart. There was no mistaking the regret in Yuuri's eyes, or the sincerity in his voice, and a little more of the wall around Wolfram's heart crumbled.
He blinked to clear his head, his eyes sliding away from the compelling dark gaze. "I doubt Gwendal would appreciate your skipping your duties to play nursemaid." He said at last.
Actually Yuuri knew the general would not mind any amount of time he spent rebuilding his relationship with Wolfram. However, he elected to respect the blond's need to take it slow. While he knew little about courtship, he did know that building trust took time. It had taken time and patience to win Greta over, and he was prepared to do the same with his fiancé.
"Okay." He conceded easily, slowing to a stop. The Maou's study was at the other wing of the castle. "I'll catch you later then." He reached out to lightly squeeze Wolfram's arm before jogging off.
Wolfram gazed down the corridor after him for a long moment before going on to the training yard. He kept his pace even and steady, but he could do nothing about the hopeful fluttering of his heart.
Yuuri did his best to keep his mind on his studies. He really did. He had meant it when he'd said he intended to learn as much about this world as fast as he could. No more stupid mistakes that could possibly cost him the people he loved.
"Gunther, how do I get Wolfram to take me back?" He asked now. He had realized the night before that he didn't know how he was going to go about reinstating their engagement. He knew that a slap was needed to get engaged. He also knew now how the engagement was dissolved. But how to get back together again?
Gunther preened happily. Nothing pleased him better than being of service to the Maou. Well, other than being of service to Gwendal, of course. But that was another story.
"Well, your Highness, it's really very simple," he said smilingly. "Wolfram just has to slap you."
"Oh," Yuuri considered that. It made sense, he admitted. He was the one who had started the whole thing by slapping Wolfram. Then by not doing anything about the engagement he had 'allowed' it to dissolve. So now the ball was in Wolfram's court.
"I would suggest that he do that soon, however." Gunther went on as an afterthought.
If he had had his way Wolfram would have done it as soon as he got back, Yuuri thought. "Can a really hard punch count?" He asked hopefully.
Gunther shook his head, looking faintly appalled at the suggestion.
"Oh, okay." Yuuri made a face. "It's gonna take some time then," he said. "Wolfram still needs a little convincing that I'm serious this time."
Gunther frowned. "Not too long, I hope," he said at length.
"No rush," Yuuri said airily. "I intend to give Wolfram as much time as he needs." Heck, he'd made Wolfram dangle for a year. He could be patient for at least a quarter of that time.
Gunther's frown deepened. "Highness, you don't understand."
Yuuri stared at him. "What exactly don't I understand?"
"For as long as you are available, the nobles will vie against each other in their hopes of getting one of their own to become your consort. The resulting tension among the 10 Houses can very easily lead to political instability." Gunther cleared his throat. "In the past, the Maou's refusal to choose anyone had led to civil war."
"You're not serious!" It was Yuuri's turn to look appalled.
"I wish I was." Gunther offered somberly. "Since your engagement's dissolution, the different Houses have already submitted names of their candidates for your consideration."
"That's crazy!" Yuuri jumped to his feet and began pacing. "I don't want anyone else!" It was Wolfram, or bust.
Gunther lifted a shoulder. "We know that, your Highness. But they don't. They still think they have a chance."
Yuuri shook his head. "Why would I want anyone else?"
"They don't understand that either," Gunther shrugged. "Which is why they've also sent proposals to Wolfram."
"WHAT?!" That really sent Yuuri's temper to the roof.
Gunther blinked, realizing he'd made a mistake just a little too late. "Well, your Highness," he went on reluctantly. "Wolfram is the heir to the House of von Bielefeld. He's a very good catch."
"He's mine!" Yuuri knew he was yelling, but he couldn't help himself. Just the thought of yet someone else trying to snatch the blond away was enough to make him want to turn Maou.
"Of course he is, your Highness," Gunther agreed heartily. Yuuri was starting to glow.
"Send back all the proposals," Yuuri instructed darkly. "And tell them Wolfram and I are off the market," he went on through gritted teeth. "I don't want to see anyone at the castle with designs on either Wolfram or me."
"Yes, your Highness." Gunther nodded, anxious to appease the young king. "And may I inform them that the announcement of your renewed engagement is imminent?"
Yuuri paused at the door to shoot him a telling glance. "Tell them the announcement of our wedding is imminent."