Author's Note: Thanks for keeping up with me and for the wonderful comments! I was so happy to hear from people still reading this. Here's another long chapter! No significant warnings to share.

Did my best to edit this and post it in the same day lol Forgive any errors.

-x-X-x-…Save Me…-x-X-x-

Justice had to be done.

The Demon King's power propelled his subordinates a good few feet aside as his water beasts made a meal of the earthy barrier. Light rippled off his form, his eyes fierce and striking fear into the still hearts of the Puppeteer's minions.

Wolfram saw the light before he heard the explosion. Vision swimming, the blonde lifted his head with great effort from where it hung on his chest. "Yuri," he whispered, drawing in a big breath and prepared himself to wrestle against the restraints on him.

Where the dolls had failed to break down the spikes, The Demon King's water evaporated it in an instant. Pebbles rained down on them and Wolfram had to shut his eyes. A hard yank and he was being dragged out of the room.

"No! Let go!" Wolfram didn't look back, only opened his eyes to stare ahead. His heart fluttered and his eyes went large. Among the slowly cascading debris and dolls, The Demon King stood in all his grandeur.

Their eyes met and Wolfram saw the dragons come straight at him.

Wolfram cried out regardless of the intentions, unable to wield a strong face when the beasts shrieked and snapped their jaws. One dragon curled around him, biting and tearing apart the restraints before moving to chase after The Puppeteer.

By the time Wolfram had wiggled out and looked up again, The Demon King stood above him, eyes straight ahead. "Oh, Yuri…"

A beastly wail had Wolfram looking over his shoulder. Dragons had raced toward the Puppeteer and crashed into a fabricated shield of threads and eerie mist.

"Splendid, Your Highness," the Puppeteer laughed, then wheezed, "However, this is no longer your castle. I worked too hard to let this opportunity slip."

His palm shot out at them and a gust of magic rushed forward. Wolfram felt his arm pulled roughly and the glowing chest of The Demon King met his face. The sound of magic on magic broke his cool and Wolfram clung to his fiancé as The Demon King snarled, using his own magic to shield them from the onslaught.

"You coward. How dare you use the lives as others as puppets for your interests? You will be punished for your crimes!"

But even Wolfram could sense the constriction in The King's chest.

A sick realization hit Wolfram: whatever curse on the castle that had made him ill from using his powers was affecting The Demon King as well. "Yuri, stop! You can't—there's," Wolfram shut up, burying his face when The Demon King bellowed and let his magic grow feral.

"Shibuya!" Murata braced himself against Conrad. They could see their King from the doorway, struggling. "Shibuya! We have to get out. This a trap! We must go! The Kingdom needs you. It's in flames!"

Wolfram gasped at those words. The Kingdom was on fire? He lurched forward, facing the Puppeteer. "You! Where is Mother, Greta, the others?"

In return, they got an old man's weak cackle and the trembling of the castle walls. They bore cracks, possibly from Gwendel's earlier magical onslaught, and now ghostly hands crept through them. The dolls, previously thrown in disarray around the room found their vigor and began straightening themselves once more.

"Get me our Prince, children," the Puppeteer said, "Forget the others for now. They're not worth the trouble."

Wolfram glared at him, searching for a pair of eyes under the hood.

All he got was a smile. "Yet, that is."

"Shibuya!" Murata tried again, face paling.

The Demon King flicked his eyes up when he heard a massive creak. A giant hand fell down upon them, bashing into their shield. Power crackled around them and The Demon King grunted at the ache growing in his head.

His head fell back and a vicious yell left his royal lips, sending water gushing after the hands. He kept them at bay, both from his fiancé and his loyal subject behind him. Pain accumulating, The Demon King kept up the fight, rage feeding his acts.

"Yuri!" Wolfram grabbed the double black's strong shoulders, feeling them tremble. His mind raced. He couldn't dare use his own magic now but could he somehow offer Yuri an outlet. Images of The Great Sage doing it prompted Wolfram to snatch The Demon King around his neck and press a hard kiss to a paling cheek.

"Yuri," he tried once more, softer this time and against his King's ear, "I can't let you lose yourself. Please."

Whether or not The Demon King acknowledged him, Wolfram couldn't tell. He shut his eyes tightly, focusing on the energy reserved for magic. He flinched at the cacophony growing louder around them once, twice, as he pulled at the force inside of him and sacrificed it to The Demon King.

The Demon King's hand wrapped tighter around Wolfram as the blonde's energy washed over him. With one last look to the Puppeteer, he said, "I will return to exact justice. We're not done."

"Of course, Your Highness."

Wolfram heard the old man's words, the last he would hear for a while. He felt his body grow heavy but didn't see himself slump into The Demon King's strong arms. Sound felt like it had become a tangible thing floating above his head and though Wolfram felt movement, he didn't know where he was going.

He only felt his body pressed closer to something warm before he blacked out.


This time, Wolfram remembered losing consciousness. When he came to, he stayed still for a moment as he struggled to win over the weight of waking up from a deep sleep. And then he reacted when he didn't feel Yuri in his arms—the last memory he had.

He bolted up, eyes snapping open and hungry to take in enemy signs.

But instead of a painted, glass face Wolfram met one that resembled his own.

"Mother?" he said with a rasp to his voice.

"Oh, Wolfram!" His mother's teary eyes melted and she buried her face in her son's shoulder. "My beautiful Wolfram…"

"Mother!" Wolfram said her name again as if it would break the taunting spell. She was still there though, her arms trembling against him. He relaxed in her embrace and took the gift of returning her hug, feeling her alive and well. Wolfram noted that she was covered in a cloak but even without it, Wolfram betted she would have felt just as warm as she ever did.

Before he could question further, she was already speaking against his shoulder. "When we saw you all, I-," she exhaled a little more dramatically than Wolfram's heart wanted, "I was so happy. You were all okay."

Straightening, Wolfram leaned back. His mother caught on and she did as well, leaving one hand against his cheek. She smoothed back his hair, brushed his brows, and said, "His Highness saved the towns bordering the castle. We're in a village, all of us."

Wolfram slightly leaned into her touch, partly to take off the weight of his head from his tired neck. "Mother, what happened? Where's Yuri?"

She smiled weakly, in that reluctant way she always did when she had to share less than favorable facts with her sons. Nonetheless, she told her story, meanwhile making Wolfram comfortable. Wolfram furrowed his eyebrows as she explained that after her release, she woke up outside of the castle, surrounded by concerned demon tribesmen. One by one, the others Wolfram recognized to have been captives in Miss Maiden's game had been released, shaken up but unscathed. None of them could approach the castle and had taken refuge in villages further away.

More chilling, Wolfram struggled with the knowledge that the kingdom was victim to an attack. Dolls stalked the area, setting flame to homes and terrorizing its inhabitants.

"We knew you must have been inside still and yet we weren't able to approach the castle," Lady Celi placed a hand over her heart as if to calm it, "We've been so busy during this chaos. It was a miracle when we saw you all. You were so pale…"

Wolfram clenches his fists. "And Yuri?"

Lady Celi looked up with a bolder smile. "His Highness wasn't with you at first but we realized that he was saving the towns, putting the fires out and forcing the enemy forces back. He's in a room in-Wolfram, darling!"

"Mother!" Wolfram grunted as she pushed him down. As delicate as his mother looked, she had a fierce way of settling him down like he was nothing but twenty years old again.

"Wolfram, you've been asleep for half a day now. You need to rest," his mother's voice didn't allow for dispute but she added, gently, "Let me tell the others. His Higness may be sleeping still as well."

Wolfram suddenly felt terrible for having forgotten what had happened not that long ago. "Gwendel! He was reall-"

His mother chuckled. It was a soft, short sound but did wonders for Wolfram's psyche. "All my darling children are safe, Wolfram," she paused, her eyes turning down and sad then, "However, Gwendel…"


She met his eyes. In that one gesture, Wolfram felt it. Her guilt, though she had no inclination to the situation, overwhelmed him. Wolfram broke the eye contact but didn't jerk away when she cupped his face again. By the touch and the look, Wolfram knew someone had told her (if not Miss Maiden during the games) the details of their troubles.

But his mother didn't mention what she had learned or what she thought of it. She put her love into rubbing his cheek as she said, "Gwendel and the others will speak to you. Let me get them, dear."

Wolfram rested his hand over hers slowly. "Mother…"

She smiled and waited.

Lifting his eyes again, Wolfram whispered, "I'm glad you're safe."

Her expression blossomed. Leaning over, Lady Celi kissed the golden curls and left the room. When she did, Wolfram felt the weight of everything fall back onto his chest. He exhaled sharply, took in the room with a keen eye. It was a simple room, barely adorned with personal belongings. He guessed it to belong to an inn or a guest bed in someone's home.

Despite his mother's earlier words, Wolfram forced himself up. He smelled clean and he guessed someone had bathed him but by the scent, his mother had lathered him up in some kind of oil for the delight it had on the nose. He was out of the awful, tacky outfit and that alone made his mood jump up a level.

He grunted, needing to use the bed's frame and wall to move to the window. He pulled back the curtain, wincing at how harsh it felt on his eyes when he did. The sky was a muted orange, underlined with the blue of daylight. The orange was streaked with purple that got thicker toward the west. Wolfram guessed that was the direction of the castle and the maimed sky was a result of whatever the Puppeteer had done.

Outside, Wolfram could see constant movement. Soldiers rushed to and fro and certainly had determination built into their moves. Maybe it was a result of Yuri's presence that heightened their spirits. Wolfram could only fathom what their own hell must have been like during the last couple of days. Though Lady Celi hadn't been sure, she estimated that they had been trapped in Miss Maiden's game for more than a couple of days.

And it was all his fault. Wolfram leaned his forehead against his supporting arm. Memories of everything they had endured because of some sick obsession a doll had with him. Wolfram didn't even know what to make of the Puppeteer.

Or, for that matter, why the captives had been released unharmed. Had Miss Maiden purposely let them go safely? Surely not. Could she?

Wolfram suddenly remembered when he was set free in the throne room. He had thought he heard Miss Maiden's whimpering in his head. Had she somehow been a catalyst to their freedom?

"Not only should you be in bed but thinking that hard might make you pass out, Your Excellency."

Wolfram jolted at the voice and he turned to see the familiar, obnoxious grin of Yosak. He came in, Conrad in tow, but his mother wasn't. Perhaps she had wanted them to have privacy. Wolfram didn't like that, his stomach already uneasy from both these men in his tired presence.

"Wolfram," Conrad was already moving to him.

More to avoid being handled, Wolfram—with a grumble—sat back down on the bed, but didn't lie down. He didn't want to be handled anymore. He had enough of that to last him a couple of centuries.

Conrad smiled at the action. He too was changed, in something more appropriate for a soldier. "Mother told us you already had a talk with her. How are you feeling?"

To his own surprise, Wolfram said, "Fine." He was a little woozy from the deep sleep and he had a heck of a lot of emotional mending, but he felt much better than he had in a while.

Conrad nodded, looking relieved. He sported a few bandages to his face and probably more under his uniform. "Yuri is still asleep," he explained when Wolfram shot him a look.

"Is he…?"

"He's alright. He used a lot of power."

"He got us to escape?" Wolfram didn't really want to go into a lot of details right away but he couldn't help but wonder.

Conrad's reaction mirrored his mother's. The man resembled Lady Celi in more ways than he probably knew, Wolfram thought bitterly. "What?" he snapped.

"Wolfram," Conrad began, "You sho-"

"Don't tell me what I should do," Wolfram hissed, "Answer my question."

Yosak broke into a nervous laugh and waved off Wolfram's growing anger. "Now, now, you've all been through a lot. Things haven't been easy here either though so let's not get upset."

"Indeed. You shouldn't be pushing it Lord von Bielefeld."

Great, Wolfram grumbled internally. Another face he didn't want to see. The Great Sage smiled meekly and came in, squeezing past the two men. He looked paler than usual and Wolfram couldn't help relish that things didn't go so well planned for the shrewd boy.

"Your Eminence." Conrad frowned at him.

Murata gave him an assuring glance. "It's thanks to Lord von Bielefeld that Shibuya lasted so long. Sure I gave him some power but it really doesn't compare to how much Lord von Bielefeld gave. He is far more passionate after all."

Wolfram glared at him, and not just because of how the boy took a seat on his bed. "Yuri really saved the town?" he asked, his anger softening.

Murata nodded. "Mm. He was quite a spectacle. Of course, I passed out pretty soon into it," he laughed, "But I heard stories. We came just in time."

"Everyone is really okay then?" Wolfram turned back to Conrad and Yosak.

Neither denied it. "It seems so. Even the servants are here," Conrad said. He didn't let his emotions on the waltz show on his face.

"However, there is the matter of-"

"Yosak," Conrad interjected, giving his companion a harsh stare.

Yosak scoffed. "He's going to find out sooner or later and knowing him, if he finds out later, he'll throw a bigger fit."

Putting the half-insult aside, Wolfram straightened. "Tell me what?" Wolfram already suspected what it was though.

Defeated, Conrad sighed and reluctantly started. "We were able to get out because of…Gwendel."

"Brother?" Wolfram tilted his head. Last he remembered, Gwendel was a mess, which was saying a lot for the tank his brother typically was.

Conrad struggled with the right words.

"The effects of Miss Maiden's game seemed to have stayed on Lord von Voltaire," Murata offered, leaning back on his hands.

The implications had Wolfram's head swimming. "What? What happened to Gwen-"

"Relax," Murata assured, "He's not in critical condition. It's more like, for the time being, he's been granted…gifts."

"I wouldn't consider given powers by this," Yosak wrinkled his nose, "doll thing a gift."

Wolfram felt his stomach acting up, rising into his throat. "Miss Maiden…did something to him?"

Murata sighed, a reluctant sound. "When we were separated, Lord von Voltaire and I were greeted by Miss Maiden. She told us that the Puppeteer was drawing near, faster than she had hoped and that it would ruin her plans. She said we couldn't speak of it—you know, it being part of the challenge.

"I think she told Lord von Voltaire because she knew he'd be a good pawn to keep things in her favor. I think she wanted him to know because it would make him act when the Puppeteer showed up. If he did try to tell you, which he did, she'd take him out completely. Why she didn't just keep him when we had our challenge, I can only imagine it was part of her sick mind games."

Wolfram took it in, straining to understand every sentence and putting them into the bigger picture. "I don't understand…"

Murata looked straight ahead, a slight sag in his shoulders. "Miss Maiden wants you at all costs, Lord von Bielefeld. In another time, giving Lord von Voltaire the powers she did would be foolish. Given that the Puppeteer had interfered though, Miss Maiden put her trust in him to get us out. What she said to him, did to him when she took him away, Lord von Voltaire won't specify."

Definitely feeling the bile rising, Wolfram dipped his head forward, staring at the bed sheets as he tried to make further sense of the details. "So…he helped us escape."

"We don't understand what the extent of the effects is on him," Conrad added gently, "He was very reluctant to use them, unsure if it would really work."

"What could he do? What did he do?" Wolfram looked up again, needing to pull answers out.

"He had an effect on the dolls. He could…control them, somewhat," Conrad didn't sound convinced that even he understood what had happened.

Wolfram was already getting up.

"Your Exce-"

"Where is he?" Wolfram overcame the dizziness of standing too fast and started heading out, hearing hurried footsteps behind him. He had to see Gwendel. He had to see Yuri.

"Wolfram!" Conrad was at his side in an instant. To Wolfram's slight surprise though, the brunette didn't grab his arm to stop him.

"I want to know what Miss Maiden told you," Wolfram said to Murata, not gracing him with even a glance over his shoulder. He was in a hallway now, a long one that told him this was most likely an inn. He could hear people, smell food, and feel the uneasiness of the unknown stuck in the air.

When the boy didn't answer him, Wolfram had the right mind to spin around and shake him again. He stopped that train of thought though when Conrad stepped in front of him and curled his hand around a doorknob.

Conrad gave him a look Wolfram couldn't decipher and touched him carefully on his shoulder. He opened the door before Wolfram could protest to the act. Inside, a wooden floorboard stretched into an expansive room. Back against the wall, sitting, was Gwendel with his eyes shut in concentration.

With a nudge, Conrad ushered Wolfram in and gave him a nod before he was already shutting the door.

Wolfram stared at the closed door, unsure what had just transpired. He turned carefully though, taking in his brother's state. He was dressed casually, his hair up again, and his lips were probably bruised—but with the dim lighting, Wolfram couldn't be sure.

"You should be in bed." Gwendel's voice made Wolfram tense the second time that day.

"Brother!" Wolfram rushed forward, stumbling a couple of times. He crouched beside him, taking in his condition more thoroughly. "Wha-"

"You should be in bed," the man said again, not opening his eyes until after he spoke. They were different, sunken in and half glazed.

"You did better." The other voice had Wolfram reaching for a weapon he didn't have at his hip. He whirled toward the dresser, seeing a doll straddling its edge. Beside it was what might have been a rock covered in a misty, dark substance. Wolfram finally remembered the doll after giving it a once over.

"V…Varick." Wolfram stood up, inching closer to the doll.

The doll seemed stiffer than the others, neck creaking as it tried to meet Wolfram's gaze. "I'm glad you're okay. Your King took me with you."

"Brother, what's going on?" Wolfram watched as Gwendel cracked his own neck, releasing a tense muscle.


Wolfram gulped, unsure how to approach the subject. In the end, all he could say saw, "I saw Mother."

"Good. She was worried."

Wolfram took the opportunity. "About you too."

Finally, Gwendel looked at him and with that single glance, Wolfram could tell the man knew that he wasn't in the dark. "Does it bother you?"

Huffing, Wolfram repressed the urge to stomp his foot. "What? Miss Maiden—she used you! She took you from me, even now she's using the people I care about for some…some sick game of hers and it's all my-"

Wolfram forgot his rant, a large hand threading into his hair. With a light push, his head bumped into Gwendel's strong chest and for a second, Wolfram couldn't have been happier to hear his brother's heartbeat, strong and not at all abnormal.

"Wolfram," Gwendel didn't budge beyond the gesture but he didn't sound as grave as usual, "Are you a fool?"

The question was so serious that Wolfram pinched his lips together in thought. "Of course not," he mumbled, knowing that was the answer he should give.

"Then don't blame yourself."

Wolfram's eyelids felt ticklish so he rubbed them and left his hand to rest against Gwendel's chest.

"I don't regret what's happened if it meant getting His Highness to safety," Gwendel then added, quieter, "And you."

"Brother," Wolfram paused to savor the word and that Gwendel was very much standing strong, "What did she do to you?"

Gwendel dropped his hand and rested it on Wolfram's shoulder in a manner that made the blonde obediently raise his head. "Her Master is after you, Wolfram, to make his first living doll."

Wolfram stared. "What?"

Moving around him, Gwendel went to Lord Varick and picked up the doll. "Not just because of your looks, but because you are a strategic ploy for his declaration of war," he continued, settling the doll into the crook of one elbow, "Being the Demon King's fiancé and a demon of incredible magic, he'll use that to his advantage once he's taken you."

Wolfram fell silent.

Gwendel kept speaking though. "She gave me a small portion of her powers. To what extent," he looked down at the doll.

"We cannot tell," Lord Varick finished, "But it gives us an opportunity we cannot waste. I've been doing what I can to help Lord von Voltaire manipulate these powers."

At that, Wolfram regained some of his wits. "Does it hurt? To use the, um, powers?"

Lord Varick was unable to look as sympathetic as he felt. "It has adverse effects, I'm afraid."

"What? How so?" Panic grew in Wolfram's voice.

"Well," the doll trailed off, reluctant, and looked at Gwendel.

Wolfram clenched his hands together. "Don't you dare try to be silent now! Tell me this moment or-"

"Wolfram." Gwendel's hard tone startled the blonde.

Wolfram couldn't stop the pinched look in his face that always came when Gwendel spoke that way. "Brother…?"

Expression softening just a bit, Gwendel walked past Wolfram and opened the door ."You should see His Majesty. I'm sure he's awake by now."

Wolfram didn't get the chance to call out to him; the door shut with a loud click behind Gwendel and the doll he carried. For a moment, Wolfram thought he would come back. When he didn't, the blonde turned back to the room and saw the mist drift off the rock and vanish. He then remembered the mist being the kind back at the castle, a manifestation of the Puppeteer's powers.

The silence of the room overcame Wolfram, allowing his emotions to boil and memories to swarm. In the brief privacy his brother had granted him, Wolfram collapsed against a wall, slid down it, and buried his face into his hands.

He let himself cry.


When Wolfram had regained enough control, he left the room and had Conrad guide him to Yuri's temporary room.

Inside, Greta was there, clutching Yuri's hand.

"Greta." Wolfram's psychological weariness lifted at the sight of her.

"Wolfram!" Greta detached from Yuri and all but bounded into the blonde's arms, squeezing the air out of him.

Wolfram smiled despite his headache-from-crying, returning his affection in the gesture. "I'm so proud of you," he murmured against her temple, "You've been a brave girl, haven't you?"

"I'm Yuri and Wolfram's daughter," Greta said into his neck, hanging on tighter, "I missed you so much."

"We missed you too." Wolfram flicked his eyes to Yuri, who sat upright against a hill of pillows. The double black smiled at him and Wolfram couldn't resist returning it.

He pulled back and wiped at the tears collecting in the corner of Greta's eyes. Though he had hoped to speak to Yuri in peace, Wolfram didn't find the heart to ask her to leave.

Before he could scoop her up though, Greta was already speaking. "I'll go tell them to start making some food for you. I'll help make it," she insisted, squeezing Wolfram's hand. She bundled up her courage and released his hand, leaving the room with a wave to them both.

"She's really tough, isn't she?" Yuri met Wolfram's eyes, both understanding their daughter left to allow them privacy.

A sudden and unexpected wave of uneasiness came over Wolfram. He fidgeted and looked anywhere but Yuri's eyes for the time being. He was sure Yuri could tell he had been crying, even if it had only been a little. "How long have you been up?"

"I've been on and off for a while. I just woke up a few minutes ago."

Wolfram toed the ground. "How are you feeling?"

"Much better."

Though Wolfram wasn't looking, he could feel Yuri's smile growing. With a flick of his eyes, Wolfram found that smile and a pair of warm eyes.

"How about you?" Yuri gestured to the bed.

Wolfram obeyed, approaching with a shrug. "Fine, of course," he said and settled beside the bumps that Yuri's legs made under the blanket.

"You're worried about Gwendel, aren't you?"

Eyes wide, Wolfram searched Yuri's eyes. "You know?"

Yuri shook his head and offered a weak laugh. "No, not in full detail," he admitted and then added, more softly, "But it means we have to act soon. Even in my other form, I couldn't stop that man, the Puppeteer."

"The castle is poisoned with something. It's not your fault," Wolfram said, shuddering at the nausea he had overcome, "Probably a spell of some kind. Something in his magic repressed others'. But if Miss Maiden really did something to Gwendel and he can use some of that magic…"

Lost in thoughts, Wolfram didn't hear his words grow quiet. He stared at Yuri's hands, momentarily taken back to the memory of being held by them during their escape. It caused a train reaction, his memory reversing the events, heart reliving every instant since the lights had gone out during the ball. Great One, he hoped he wasn't going to cry again. That was the problem with crying: allow your emotions a foot and it takes a mile.

Yuri watched Wolfram's expression slacken, eyes glazing over. "Wolfram?" He reached out to touch the boy.

He didn't get far before Wolfram started speaking, startling him. "The first day Miss Maiden spoke to me, I was so entranced," he said, knowing he had to release some of this, "I remember going from shock, to disbelief, a little fear, and then captivation. I didn't realize it at the time, but she had me under her spell early on. Maybe a part of me knew it but didn't mind, considering how much comfort I took in speaking to her about things I couldn't with others…"

Shocked at the admission, Yuri lowered his hand and pressed his lips together. If he spoke now, he worried he would break whatever it was that let Wolfram offer himself like this.

"She would tell me grand stories," Wolfram continued, chuckling at the memory, "She told me a story about a beautiful doll that escaped her creator and fell into hands of many owners along the way. Some treated her poorly, some well, and always she could see their lives. One day she fell into the hands of a prince, who would forever be hers because he treasured her above all else. At last she had found happiness."

Wolfram exhaled slowly, no longer wondering if the story referred to Miss Maiden herself. It did. Gradually, he returned to reality and looked at Yuri. "I think she helped me get away," he confessed, grimacing.

"Wolfram?" Yuri frowned.

"I can't be certain but the more I think of it, I think she truly did. When I learned of what she did to Gwendel, it made me think more about it," Wolfram said, rubbing his hands together, "I cannot forgive what she did to Gwendel."

"But you think she really did help," Yuri offered.

Wolfram nodded and took in another long inhale. "She let everyone go, didn't she? I mean, Mother, Greta—they were all unharmed. Did she really let them go?"

"She may not be interested in her Master anymore then," Yuri added, resting a hand on Wolfram's arm, "Maybe she's not as evil as we thought. There might be good in her. You know, maybe she was set up to do all this."

Unable to resist, Wolfram chuckled crudely through his nose. "She's the lesser of the two evils, nothing more, Yuri."


"How can you say that?" Wolfram pinned his fiancé with a glare as he stood up, "After what she's done to you, I can't forgive her! How can you be so easy to forgive what she's done, you wimp? Have you already forgotten the trauma she's put everyone through already?"

He wanted Yuri to snap back, to get animated, throw off the sheets and leap off the bed, anything, so long as he could see his own rage reflected in the double black's eyes. Fury never met him, just warmth, a deep warmth that borderlined sadness. Wolfram couldn't seethe at the expression and he suddenly felt ridiculous for lashing out.

Yuri lowered his eyes to the blankets. "Those dolls…"

"What of them?" Wolfram knew he sounded harsher than he intended.

"They had stories, pasts. Tragic ones. I can't condone the way they hurt others but is it fair for me to judge them as evil?"

Wolfram blanched. "What are you talking about?"

"I have a loving family. Two, really. I have people who love me on Earth and here in the Demon Kingdom. I have bad days too but I think having had love in my life made me understand what it meant to be sympathetic. I don't think those dolls," Yuri found Wolfram's eyes again, "I don't think they ever knew there could be another way, that they could be loved.

"That's why I can't be so mad at them. I pity them," he finished.

The statement, despite Wolfram's internal protests, had the blonde's anger fizzle to a weak flame inside his heart. Barking back at Yuri didn't seem like a possibility and Wolfram was tempted to humor his fiancé's revelation. Considering how furious he had just come across though, Wolfram didn't dare jump fences too soon. He crossed his arms and huffed loudly, turning his nose up and away from Yuri.


The tone had become serious, even if only by a speck. Wolfram reluctantly met his King's face once more.

"Come here."

When Yuri patted the bed again, Wolfram unhooked his arms but didn't step closer, hesitant.

"That's an order, Wolfram."

Yuri's goofy smile was unbecoming of such an order. Regality aside, Wolfram rolled his eyes and found it much harder than he thought to cross the space until he was sitting again. There, Yuri alarmed him with another move; the double black reached out and embraced him.

"I was so happy when I learned everyone was okay," Yuri murmured against his hair, "But when I found out you hadn't woken up, I was scared."

As always, Yuri's hands felt warm against Wolfram's clothing. Tempted as he was to huff again and insult the other boy, Wolfram reacted unconsciously. He sank into the embrace, hooking his arms around Yuri. Their faces pressed against shoulders, both boys held on just a bit tighter, the mere gesture transcending anything their words could have expressed.

Wolfram eventually found himself returning Yuri's words. "I didn't know what he had done to you when I saw you up there. You didn't look alive at first."

Yuri tightened his hold in response. Even he couldn't articulate what had occurred. He couldn't remember the Puppeteer prior to the events in the throne room and that itself was a blurred projection in his mind.

"Yuri," Wolfram said, reaching into his heart to say more. When he would try to pull them out, words lodged halfway up, making Wolfram's mouth feel drier.

It seemed he didn't have to say much else though. Wolfram put his feelings into his acts—his fingers stroked Yuri's back, his other hand cupping Yuri's cheek. With a nudge, he had their foreheads resting against each other's again.

Yuri's face cleared off its usual unease at the close proximity. His eyes stayed soft and only the faint red in his cheeks told Wolfram he was a little uncomfortable.

I love you, Wolfram wanted to say, knowing it wouldn't do much to help Yuri sort out his feelings.

"We sure have been through a lot, huh?" Yuri's chuckle made Wolfram's stomach flutter.

Wolfram found his voice and said, "Is that all you can say, wimp?"

Yuri took the insult with a half smile. A small part of him wondered why he didn't feel so flustered. Well, he figured after everything they had gone through, it would be the opposite. As close as he felt to Wolfram and the others, this journey had proven to strengthen their bonds. Provided they got out with their lives, that is.

The bond was especially strong with Wolfram. Naming it was impossible, that much Yuri knew. So he tried to focus on the simple aspects. For instance, he felt less awkward at Wolfram's close proximity. Even now, he took comfort in the other boy, grateful even that he had Wolfram as his friend during all of this. And as scary as everything was regarding the dolls, Yuri couldn't fathom having let Wolfram endure it all alone.

Safe is also what Yuri felt. Warm too, but not in his skin. His chest, deep inside, felt warm, if that was possible. It'd ignite when he'd look at the blonde, see his face. Yuri's heart dropped as the evidence accumulated. Could it be…?

His wondering went cold. Warmth swelled in his chest again and it took him a moment to realize Wolfram had planted a chaste kiss on his lips.

Wolfram pressed into it, feeling he had a rare chance at it. He knew he had to confront Miss Maiden soon and when he did, Wolfram wasn't entirely sure he'd be back.

As that realization made his eyes burn, Wolfram retreated and prepared himself for disappointment. Yuri's eyes were big, one hand already touching his lips as if in shock. Wolfram didn't know if the boy was comparing their kisses to the assaults back in Miss Maiden's playhouse, but Wolfram could only hope Yuri didn't think they were somehow the same.

Yuri's hand lowered, his eyes still on Wolfram's face, unable to break away even if he wanted to. "Wolfram…"

Wolfram narrowed an eye at him and clenched his jaw to prevent his outcry. He wanted Yuri to be the first to say something.

He didn't get that though. Wolfram struggled with his impatience, just about giving up and scolding himself for his behavior, given the situation.

Yuri's hand wrapped around his own.

"Yuri?" Wolfram ogled at the display that was Yuri squeezing his hand.

"Thank you, Wolfram."

Not expecting that, Wolfram could only keep staring.

Yuri sensed the disbelief and grew self conscious again. "It's…um…"

Wolfram couldn't wait anymore—not like patience was his virtue. "I was told two boys together aren't as common on Earth as it is here," he supplied, hoping it would calm Yuri, though he rather have yelled at the boy.

It worked. Yuri's shoulders eased up. "Ah, yeah."

"Is it viewed badly?"

"N-Not exactly. Some people think it's bad but I think a lot more people are accepting of it, compared to a long time ago," Yuri said, speaking fast, "I mean, in Japan there's a history with um…guys and guys together..."

Wolfram didn't pay much mind to that. "Yuri."

His fiancé stopped rambling and bit his lower lip.

Wolfram sighed and squeezed Yuri's hand back. He focused, tried to imagine Conrad's tranquility as he grappled with steadying his emotions. Cornering Yuri tended to have bad results so he would try, at least once, to keep himself at bay. It came surprisingly easy when Wolfram said quietly, "Thank you too."

Yuri's face brightened. Anxiety melted off him, replaced with delight.

Their fingers shifted, threading, and even Wolfram couldn't help the new color rising to his cheeks. He didn't dare move or breathe hard, relishing in the time that passed with their hands interlocked.


Wolfram didn't want to break the moment but he didn't have much choice. Yuri's hand pulled gently at his face and he met a sloppy, shy kiss. Wolfram didn't even have the luxury to comprehend it before Yuri was already pulling away, eyes down, face incredibly red.

Wolfram welcomed the tiny smile on his lips. Embarrassed though, he cleared his throat and looked away too. "You're the least majestic King I've ever seen," he muttered.

"Shut up," Yuri mumbled, shutting his eyes tightly. He only opened them when Wolfram's free hand rested on his arm. The touch was reassuring of many things. Yuri saw the determination etched in Wolfram, the tenacity to keep going until they overcame this hardship. Something Yuri couldn't place, or maybe was too frightful to, but it was equally reassuring and told Yuri that Wolfram wouldn't abandon him, ever.

It was a difficult insight for Yuri, to know deep down in the huddled part of his subconscious that he found Wolfram attracted as time progressed. Not just in looks. Wolfram had always been a pretty boy in his eyes, could even pass for a girl with the right attire. It was more of Wolfram being—well, Wolfram, that Yuri grew attached to.

True, the fire wielder was fit for fire: too passionate, impatient, stubborn, and prone to outbursts. Yuri knew though that he wasn't the only one who saw the sweet parts to Wolfram. Yuri had seen Wolfram grow. Wolfram could keep his tongue in check at appropriate times and instead of insult him, the blonde could soften around the eyes and simply touch Yuri in a sympathetic gesture.

Seeing Greta's love blossom for Wolfram and vice versa helped Yuri to see what a family they had really become. And as fiercely loyal as Wolfram was to him, Yuri noticed that even the way they walked together change. Before, Wolfram was more like a mean coach looming over Yuri, waiting to scold him and always hot on his heels. Now, they could walk in tandem, sometimes Wolfram lingering behind without his jealousy suffocating Yuri.

And when Wolfram smiled, that sweet, almost shy smile, Yuri always wanted to grin. When they would pick flowers with Greta, Wolfram would always show that smile for an exceptional piece of a flower. The boy appreciated beauty in all forms despite what anyone else would say. When he'd share that smile with Yuri, the double black felt he could stay in that moment for a long time.

The memories and retrospect on Wolfram made Yuri's smile drop, though it stayed in his eyes. A part of him felt anxious, like a kid at his first day at a new school. He was starting to really like Wolfram, more so than he could have ever imagined. He had struggled with it for so long, downright rejected it in the beginning. It was disturbing to have a different feeling now come over him, smack him in the face. Change was always a bit scary though, he thought.

He wondered if Wolfram had felt that way about him at some point. But he couldn't bring himself to ask, his face too hot and tongue feeling twice its normal size. He had been staring at Wolfram the entire time and the blonde at him.

All his emotions agitated his stomach, making its hungry growl that much louder.

Yuri couldn't blush harder. "Um, sorry…"

"If we don't get food in you, you'll become more of a wimp, wimp." Wolfram's eyes were smiling though they rolled in slight annoyance.

The sound of pans rattling sounded loudly now to them. Reality settled back in, the outside world sparing no sympathy for them. In some ways they took the excuse to avoid further embarrassment on either part.

Wolfram did a once over on Yuri, making sure the boy was really okay as the King put on his boots and slipped on a jacket after a quick wash up. They met eyes, preparing to mingle back in with everyone else, but before they did, Yuri took Wolfram's arm. Standing side by side, Yuri realized he had taken a few centimeters lead over Wolfram in height. And with that sudden awareness, the double black bottled up his courage and leaned over to confirm what had been going on in his head.

Wolfram met him half way, shyly actually, despite how much his skin tickled. They kissed, a brief mingle of their lips. There wasn't time for any sloppy experimentation but Yuri took it for everything it was and might be. It might have been a symbolic expression of his sanity heading for the hills but the double black had a deep thought that it was anything but. It was a kiss, with Wolfram, and it wasn't bad. His stomach didn't turn, though it jumped a foot, and his conscience didn't feel disgusted but rather, felt like it sighed as if it was supposed to be this way now.

Boy or girl, Wolfram had become someone Yuri trusted his life to. It seemed he was in the direction to doing the same thing with his love.

But, for now, the world didn't care. It was in peril and both boys shared a knowing expression after the kiss.

The Puppeteer was waiting for them.


Reuniting with everyone was as uncomfortable and relieving as Wolfram expected. Yuri's surprising expression made him even more nervous, almost giddy. The severity of the situation was the only thing that brought his head from getting stuck in the clouds.

Seeing everyone assured him yet again that all was indeed accounted for and more or less alright. One of the perks for living a long time meant that there was a lot more time to heal what psychological damage had been taken. War also bred tough beings, both human and demon, making their interactions less riddled with trauma. It definitely eased the tension for Wolfram.

Conrad, no surprise, had been waiting outside of Yuri's door. Being the first person they ran into, Yuri had felt more at ease, always finding refuge in his godfather's calm demeanor and welcoming smile. Everyone else was downstairs and both Yuri and Wolfram were reluctant to take the last descending steps into the foyer of incoming stares.

Greta's proud grin made it that much easier. Her meal was ready and her declaration broke any trance that would have otherwise weighed down on the group. Lady Celi and the owner of the inn did their part to help too, settling everyone down for a meal together, despite what little appetite anyone had.

And so they ate together, some nibbling, others filling up for two stomachs. Even with Greta's presence at the table, the owner of the inn and a few soldiers filtering in and out reported on the situation. It wasn't anything new to Wolfram and Yuri but they listened nonetheless.

Whatever magic had taken over the castle extended over the skies still, stuck like a bad omen. The injured were tended to and the flanks of soldiers didn't stray from their posts. Luckily, there had been no further movement from any enemy, doll or not, since The Demon King's arrival, a respite everyone took gratefully.

As comforting as that news was, Wolfram wasn't all that excited. Part of him had hoped that more intelligence would have been acquired, anything that could supply them clues to what was next.

He knew there was someone at the table that could offer more insight but it was currently plopped on the table like an accessory and with Greta around, Wolfram knew he wouldn't get anywhere for a while. Despite his impatience, he could put it aside for Greta's sake and savored the time with her, listening to how strong she had been during the commotion.

But the time came when they had to speak at last. Lady Celi shared a loving expression with her sons before taking the initiative to remove herself and Greta from the group, insisting they go out to the bakery to work on some dessert; Wolfram knew how hard it must have been on his mother, leaving when she herself wanted information. The only person who stayed that was not part of the original group was Yosak.

As soon as they were alone, the air felt heavy again.

Murata leaned forward, propped his elbows onto the table, and laced his fingers. He broke the silence with, "We need Miss Maiden's help."

"WHAT?" Wolfram stood, shoving the chair back with the force of the act.

"Lord von Bielefeld," Murata interrupted, casting a serious look over the table, "We may stand a chance against the Puppeteer but we have only one chance. If we go in blindly, that chance is gone."

Wolfram made fists against the table, teeth grinding. "You," he spat to the doll, "What do you know?"

Lord Varick barely moved, save for little tweaks in his neck. "I believe His Excellency is right," he said through unmoving, painted lips.

"We've been trying all sorts of things," Yosak interjected, using his fingers to count off, "We've tried directly approaching the castle, tried magic and nonmagic users alike. That place is pretty dangerous to get close to."

"Where's Miss Maiden?" Yuri asked the doll, "What's happened to her?"

"She's inside the castle, but not for long. When we were captured, I knew the Puppeteer would soon make an example of her."

Despite his hatred of her, Wolfram grew sick at the thought. "Example? Surely not…"

"It's as you assume."

Murata nodded in understanding and glanced at Gwendel. "Lord Varick agrees that Lord von Voltaire's newly acquired powers won't suffice. However…"

"How can you put trust in her so easily?" Wolfram put as much bite into it as possible.

Conrad tried to console his younger brother by removing the hard edge his face had been holding the last few hours. "As hesitant as I am, Wolfram, we can't ignore that it was her that helped us escape, in more ways than one. She also released everyone without further harming them. It's something to think about."

By the tone, Wolfram knew Conrad had suspected Miss Maiden had been the cause of Wolfram's own release. The blonde bit his tongue and debated what had sent them all to go mad and eager for that wretched doll's help.

"Wolfram," Lord Varick started again, waiting until the blonde looked at him, "I know Miss Maiden well enough to say that she's our fastest method of stopping the Puppeteer. He'll enslave your country, experiment on your people…"

"You know this?" Yuri asked, curious as to Lord Varick's own story. Surely he had one like the others, didn't he?

"Yes, Your Highness. He's long spoke of it."

Yosak hummed and rubbed his chin. "If I recall, you told us how that Miss Maiden doll had gone missing and because of her, he was able to take a big step in his," he waved dismissively, "world domination attempt. Not only that, but from what I learned, she knew of his plans too. Why would she tell him to come if, in the end, she was interested in keeping His Excellency here to himself?"

With a final gesture to Wolfram, Yosak planted both hands on his hips and waited.

Lord Varick was silent a moment before he spoke again. "I was a doll in this body," he began, creaking as his stiff arms rose, "and when Miss Maiden called to our Master, he put me in the body you saw to help her execute his plans. He had other things to tie up back home in the meantime. But when I arrived, Miss Maiden offered me an alternative proposition after she had done that to me."

Wolfram could only imagine that 'that' referred to the man's body turning to ruin after his assassination attempt on a certain ex-Prince.

"You mean, that's why you became our guide in the playhouse?" asked Yuri, repressing as many memories as he could.

"Yes, that would be why. You see, the body I was in was temporary. It was nothing more than a large version of a small doll that takes much effort to craft. In reality, I wanted nothing of it," Lord Varick looked at Wolfram, "I had hoped that by taking your life, Master would release me from my binds. I'm sorry for that."

Wolfram paled but didn't respond to the apology.

The doll continued nonetheless. "However, Miss Maiden told me of her intentions. I knew then she planned to use the powers Master was filtering to her to keep you and ultimately vanish with you before he could know what had happened. In return, she'd take me with her and promised me freedom."

"You're a prisoner?" Conrad raised both eyebrows.

Lord Varick's giggle disturbed the tension in the air. "You're all quite silly to think we dolls are truly happy with our Master. Some, yes. The rest are tools, brainwashed in his mock kindness. He's a cruel man inside. I wanted freedom and Miss Maiden would give to me. And yet…"

His voice trailed off a moment, leaving the group in sickening anticipation. There was effort in the way the doll moved, trying to look at Yuri and Conrad.

"After what happened in the doll's house," he said as solemnly as a doll could, "I realized I could not take someone precious away from you all, especially Your Highness. The kindness you've shown despite everything has made me change my outlook. I don't want Wolfram to be anyone's puppet like I was. And so, that's why I tried to reason with Miss Maiden at the end, beg for her help. I knew that Master was approaching much faster than she had planned and couldn't handle him alone."

"If she was interested in Wolfram, why didn't she take him to begin with?" Conrad asked, flicking a glance at the blonde. His heart clenched at how far away his brother seemed from across the table.

"She's still a doll, Lord Weller. Her powers would eventually vanish when she escaped from our Master and then, Wolfram would be able to escape her. The sick games she played were nothing more than mind games to break you, Wolfram. Miss Maiden and we dolls know much about it. We know how someone becomes dependant on someone, even if that person abused them."

Beneath the table, Yuri sought Wolfram's hand and felt at ease when the blonde, despite the wince in his face, squeezed back. Now Yuri knew that the dolls were unlike criminals and more like victims than anything else.

"Your Master then," Yuri started, unsure how to proceed.

Lord Varick seemed to understood though and tried to pull his lips into a smile. "A user, abuser, a madman with amazing manipulative powers. Combined with his gift for magic and he's a fearsome opponent."

Gwendel, who had otherwise taken to sinking back in his seat with his arms crossed, finally opened his closed eyes. "He's planning to use live hosts to put the dolls' souls into. Live dolls."

"Brother." Wolfram wasn't granted a look from Gwendel. He thought about the effects of Miss Maiden's magic on his brother and had to stop short to prevent his stomach from taking a turn for the worst.

"Yes," Lord Varick said, "For my efforts, I would be one of the first to gain a body, specifically Lord Weller's."

The others stole a look to the brunette.

Conrad grew tense around the eyes and said, "Yosak."

The spy understood the silent command. "The town within the walls itself can be infiltrated. However, every time we've gone, it's been plagued with a bunch of those creepy dolls. Since His Majesty scared them off though, we aren't sure how many have stayed but I take it that most ran back into the castle itself."

"Miss Maiden's execution must take place there then. Master will surely want you to see what has happened to her and what will become of her."

"Lord Varick believes that his Master is unaware of Gwendel's abilities. It may be the perfect time to take Miss Maiden," Murata said, unlacing his fingers at last.

"And if she betrays us?" Conrad pressed.

Lord Varick giggled again. "You can use magic out here. But I assure you that in Miss Maiden's current state, betrayal isn't an option for her."

The enigmatic words sank in with Wolfram. He removed his hand from Yuri's, needing to clench his palms together in thought, or else ignite something out of sheer frustration. He hated Miss Maiden, feeling repulsed at how she used him, and yet he was faced with the reality of having to rely on her and Lord Varick to stop this madness.

"We'll need Miss Maiden anyway to eventually remove the hex on Lord von Voltaire," Murata advised, looking directly at Wolfram as he said it.

It was enough to convince Wolfram then. He'd force the doll to undo what she did to Gwendel and seek his retribution. Somehow.

A frantic sound of metal clanking and hurried footsteps put them all on alert. The owner of the inn and a soldier rushed through the front door, the inn woman with an apologetic look for disrupting.

"What is it?" Yosak asked of the soldier as his eyes narrowed.

"Come take a look, sir! A doll!"

The woman nodded eagerly and pointed outside.

Rushing, they followed the soldier out. For a moment, Wolfram welcomed the fresh air, but it fell quickly at how stale it felt in his lungs. Most of the town was blessed with the sun's shine but a part of it was becoming victim to the shadows of the darkening sky. The soldier led them to the darker part of town, where less people congregated and plenty of soldiers were stationed.

Many were on alert, weapons drawn and bodies poised for battle.

In the distance, Wolfram made her out, a desolate speck among the expanse of grassy hills. She stumbled toward them, her tattered hair tangling with each bully of a breeze that had her falling to her knees more than once. The closer she got, they made out the pitiful state of her body. Her dress was charred, the ribbon in the back unraveled and getting lost in the wind at one point.

Her body squeaked and groaned. Wolfram inhaled sharply when he saw that half of her face was caved in, shattered in on itself. The other side was cracked and Wolfram remembered her now to be one of the dolls that he had seen go up in flames at the end of Miss Maiden's game.

"Your Highness, stay back," Conrad stated, drawing out his blade and nudging his godson back, "Yosak."

"Got it," the spy replied, already holding Yuri by the arm.

"Hey, wait! She looks hurt!" Yuri yanked, staring at the doll as she ignored the warnings of the soldiers.

"Perhaps it's a trap," Lord Varick said, unconvincingly, from where he sat in Gwendel's arms.

"Don't hurt her! That's an order!" Yuri tried to pull free again, unsure the others would do as he said.

"We have to prioritize your safety, Your Majesty!" one soldier shot back.

Among the escalating commotion, Gwendel stepped forward, breaching the line of soldiers.

"Lord von Voltaire!"

"Brother!" Wolfram made to rush after him but found himself jerked back by Conrad's strong hand, "Conrart, let go!"

Gwendel ignored the shouting, instead staring directly at the approaching doll with his usual hard look. He shifted Lord Varick into one arm and stretched his hand out in front of him.

The doll stopped, head jerking to see the looming man. She whispered through broken lips, "A message from Master."

"Speak," Gwendel demanded, keeping his hand at the same level. He wasn't sure the extent of her powers or what she would do, but at the least he knew he and Lord Varick were the best line of defense, as ill as it made him feel to have to use his new talents.

The doll didn't reveal malice though. She looked tired, the life in her poor eye a step away from diving off a ledge and dying. Despite it, she relayed the poem.

"Her name was Miss Maiden

She left the Maker's side,

Despite the life He gave her,

At dawn He'll skin her hide…"

The doll paused, her little breath coming in huffs. She dropped to her knees, resting her hands on the grass though she could not feel its soft texture. Again, she spoke to finish her message.

"Her name was Miss Maiden

A prince she did adore

But now he'll be His doll

As the new King wages war."

Spent, the small body collapsed to her side, her porcelain skin flaking off. Brittle pieces broke off, first in small doses, and then in large, decayed clumps that fell inward, leaving holes in her body.

"She'll be gone soon," Lord Varick said, "But we know tomorrow is our day now."

Gwendel grunted, hearing the others' footsteps approaching. He lowered his arm now that the threat was over.

Conrad came first, sheathing his blade as he took in the sight of the dying doll. His heart ached for her as much as he knew he would have killed her had he no other choice.

"No!" Yuri was already crouching beside her, his eyes wide and threatened by tears. Yosak stood beside him but politely let the King mourn the doll.

Though her voice had been weak, they had all heard the poem ring out like a wind chime. Wolfram shivered as he finally came up to stand beside Gwendel. He swallowed hard and then shared the space with Yuri, getting on his knees despite the look cautious look Conrad gave him.

"She's really dying," Yuri murmured. He reached out, jerked his hand free when Yosak grabbed it, and rested it on her dirty head, "I'm sorry you had to go through this."

The doll made a little sound, surprising them. It sounded like a choked cry, but they couldn't confirm it. She couldn't cry.

A tiny, shattered hand came to lie over Yuri's, but it disintegrated before it ever made the journey. Her body collapsed into complete ash and a dark mist leaked from her body. It coiled into itself, as if in agony, and erupted with a strangled pop.

Gwendel tensed and bit on his tongue to stifle a shout.

"Brother!" Wolfram was already turning at the sound, seeing the pain creeping into Gwendel's eyes.

"He'll be fine," Lord Varisk said, "We felt her death. It's a sign that we're all connected to my Master's powers."

Murata, who had been silently observing, said softly, "That's why you can tell Miss Maiden's location."

"Yes, but when she went missing, she purposely concealed herself. If she had died, we would have felt it though."

Before silence could overwhelm them, Conrad addressed Yosak. "Prepare troops for tomorrow. We'll have to be ready for anything."

It was all Wolfram remembered hearing about preparations. He stayed beside Yuri, shoulder by shoulder, taking in the sight of the breeze picking up the ashes in waves, carrying them off to what he hoped was a better place.

"It's not fair," Yuri said below a breath.

Wolfram put one hand on his back. "Yuri…"

"Fair or not, we have to stop them, Shibuya." Murata kneeled beside them, offering his respects to appease Yuri more than anything else. "The Puppeteer will make a big move tomorrow and try to take your place as King. We have to be ready.

Yuri clenched his fists on his knees. "I'm going to find a way. I'm going to save those dolls and stop the Puppeteer without any more casualties."

Silently, Wolfram accepted Yuri's hand again, unaware if anyone was watching. He could feel Yuri's frustration in how his fingers twitched.

All the while, Wolfram didn't have the heart to tell him that somehow he knew they wouldn't succeed so easily.

Miss Maiden…


Miss Maiden fully awoke in her prison by a tingle in her mind. She couldn't recall when she had blearily awoken before, but remembered vague images of what had occurred each time. In a haze, the first thoughts that came to her were that her Prince had escaped with her aid. That alone pulled at her lips.

Lips. She felt them: they were wider, fuller. Then, she remembered awakening to a tingle, something she never experienced for the many years she spent as a porcelain commodity.

Sobered, she inhaled hard, feeling her lungs struggling to expand. The pain preceded the panic coursing through her very real veins. She could turn her neck with effort, her eyes burned and her lids felt heavy. She saw herself incased in a glass reeking of potent magic, undoubtedly to keep her confined. She could barely detect the fuzzy movements of dolls outside.

Then she could feel. Her long hair tickled her bare, cold arms. Stiff as they were, she was still able to raise her slender arms and brought her soft hands to her face. She pushed her nails into her skin, feeling the tinge of pain. She touched her lips, her hair, lowered them to her small breasts, down the silk of the nightgown she was in.

Her eyes couldn't widen much but she inhaled again, taking in panic gulps of air.

No, she thought, unable to trust the vocal chords lining her neck. Not this body again…

Her arms wrapped around her and she dipped her head into her chest. For the first time in centuries, she felt tears trying to push out her eyes.

Save me, my Prince…


Yuri isn't a wimp all the time! Of course he could come to have a crush on Wolfram, hehe.

Poor Gwendel. I think I put heavy burdens on him often. He's a good tank, he can handle it. /hugs him

Thank you for reading. Hope you enjoyed. Leave your thoughts if you get the chance!