Title: Coming Full Circle
Disclaimer: I do not own KKM nor do I profit from anything related to KKM.
Author's Note: I originally wrote this for a LiveJournal community called kkmxmas for aranasuteshi. I'd like to thanks maeritrae for the betaing and jazzthejazz for the test read.
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Gisela looked down at her small, purple shoes.
The man had been so enthusiastic about buying her new clothes that she didn't have the heart to tell him she didn't like purple. It didn't matter though. The shoes fit, and they kept her feet warm, and there were no holes for water to get inside and make squeaking sounds when she walked.
Once, a baker had thrown a loaf of bread at her head, because she was making so much noise when she walked past his shop, smelling the delicious aroma. Actually, that was a pretty good day when she thought about it. Older kids stole most of her thrown loaf, but her belly was still full that night.
The purple shoes looked so odd on the end of her legs as they dangled over the large bench. Everything in the castle made her feel even smaller than she was. She kept staring at them as she strained to listen to the man's conversation with that woman in the black dress. Gisela knew people who wore black were very special and respected, but she also knew women whose big, round, top parts hung out of their clothing like that were called prostitutes. Maybe some prostitutes were special and respected?
"That's my bench," called out a little voice beside her.
Her head jerked up in surprise. The purple shoes had distracted her. She found herself looking at a boy who was a little younger than herself with bright blond hair and huge green eyes just like her own.
"That's my bench," he repeated.
"It's only yours as long as you protect it," she replied, matter-of-factly. "It's my bench now."
She braced herself for his retaliation. Usually smaller children backed down to bigger children unless they were in groups, but if they were desperate enough anything was possible. But to Gisela's surprise the little boy just cocked his head to the side and said, "I'm a prince."
She had heard that one before. "No, you aren't."
"Am too! Am too!"
Screwing up his face tightly, the child appeared to be in deep thought over the perplexing dilemma, and then he came to his conclusion, smiling smugly. "Because my Mom is the Maou."
Well, the little girl with green pigtails could hardly argue with such logic. "Ooooh. Um, so do you want to use the bench too then?"
"Sure!" The little boy eagerly clambered his way onto the tall bench and then stretched himself upright as a way of distancing himself from his less-than-dignified mounting process. "So, who are you anyway?"
Wrinkling his nose a little the way his oldest brother always did when he didn't like an answer, he expanded on his question, "Gisela who?"
"Gisela nobody. I'm an orphan." She scissored her legs restlessly, making her purple shoes swish colorfully through the air.
"What's an orphan?"
"I don't know," she shrugged. "That's just what everyone calls me. I think it's something bad or sad though. People always look annoyed when they say it or they say 'awwwwwwww' for a really long time and then pat my head."
"I hate when people pat my head," Wolfram replied seriously.
"Want to get some ice cream?"
"I'm supposed to wait here for Lord von Christ."
He looked through the half-closed door to see who she was pointing toward. "Ooooh, that's just Gunter. He won't mind," he declared dismissively. "I get the strawberry though!"
She didn't really like strawberry, but that didn't stop her from replying, "Nuh uh, race you for it!" With that, she was off the bench and running down the elaborate hallway.
"You don't even know where the kitchen is!" he shouted as he chased after her.
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"I want to go too," grumbled the sullen blond leaning against the door frame.
The young green-haired woman tediously packed away vials into a specialized case. They couldn't risk anything breaking or spilling in transit to the battlefield. Even with powerful healers, they would need all the supporting potions and remedies they could transport. "You heard what they said, Wolfram. There is no point complaining about it now."
"They said I was too young, but I'm not much younger than you, and I know I'm as skilled as half the men out there!" Under his breath, he added, "some of them are only half men anyway."
Blessed with keen hearing, Gisela shouted, "Hey!" She stopped what she was doing and straightened herself up until she stood taller than the prince. "If you are going to talk like that you can do it somewhere else." Her face was stern and her emerald eyes practically crackled with fire. It was no wonder the soldiers had taken to calling her Sergeant even if it wasn't her official rank.
"Humph!" He sank lower against the door, but he didn't apologize for what he had said. He was smart enough not to ask why she was defending people with human blood when the humans were the enemies.
He had heard rumors about who was responsible for Dorcas going bald, after all. "Well, whatever."
The healer shook her head and returned her attention to packing. Silence hung between them for a few minutes before the young man skulked over and started to help transfer everything into the neatly-labeled case.
When the packing was complete, Wolfram turned around and left the room with a quiet, "Don't do anything stupid out there."
Gisela smiled and shot back, "Don't do anything stupid here either."
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It was almost as if the castle itself was mourning. The stone seemed to be a drabber version of gray and the air was unusually stale. There were few acknowledgements as people passed one another in the corridors. And it had been ages since the last gala event. In truth, it had been ages since the last time joyous laughter had rung out in Blood Pledge castle.
It was strange how much impact one person could have on a kingdom. Of course, it wasn't just one person or one life. So many men had died in that awful battle. In fact, it could scarcely be described as a battle. Massacre seemed more appropriate. Bloodbath was even closer to the truth still.
And yet for all the lives lost, it was Julia's death which seemed to keep the sorrow hanging so thickly in the air it was palpable.
"Wolfram?" asked a voice that seemed unusually soft coming from the normally spirited woman. "Why are you up so late?" She joined him on the balcony with slow, paced steps, already knowing his reason. It was the same reason she was there. Julia had loved this time of night when the air was crisp and the world was dark for everyone and not just her. She had confided in the younger healer once that it made her feel more connected to everyone else. Perhaps she had once told her former student the same thing.
"It isn't that late," he replied a bit roughly.
She didn't comment on his tone as she propped her elbows onto the marble railing and looked out over the moonlight-soaked gardens below them. "Your brother seems to be doing better." It wasn't exactly true. Conrad's body was healing steadily, but she had never seen him so withdrawn. And despite his silence, he was somehow so...hostile.
Wolfram just starred out blankly, not wanting to talk about Conrad any more than he wanted to talk about Julia. Gisela didn't really want to talk about them either, so she didn't push the issue. Instead, they once again stood together in silence. And strangely enough, it helped.
Julia was right. Somehow the night did make you feel more connected.
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She shook her head and smirked when she saw Wolfram hanging over the edge of the ship. Yuuri had mentioned his unlikely fiancé's aversion to traveling by sea once. "Not feeling so well, your highness?" She beamed at him teasingly as he raised his head, looking both nauseated and annoyed. She would have laughed if their quest to locate the missing Maou wasn't quite so serious.
"I think I can help with that," she continued, reaching out to hold her hand out over his stomach. She could have sworn she saw him blush as they were engulfed in a halo of green light, but it was probably a reaction to the maryoku. "Better?"
"Yes...thank you." He straightened himself up and seemed calm—eerily calm for Wolfram. She had expected him to be impatient at the very least.
It was so jarring, she simply continued as if he was. "I'm sure we will arrive soon, and then you'll find his majesty."
Wolfram only nodded his agreement. "I should probably make sure all our luggage is ready to go when we dock."
"Would you like some help?"
"No," he declined, "I'll be fine on my own."
She considered following him, but she remained on the deck instead. Things were different between them since Yuuri had arrived. Things were different with Wolfram in general since the young, unorthodox Maou had arrived. In many ways it seemed to be for the better. The selfish prince was learning to put someone else first occasionally. He was growing up. And yet Gisela couldn't help missing having someone around to be just as brash and headstrong as she could be.
It was strange how much impact one person could have on another.
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He looked so ghastly pale against the standard, white sheets they were using to move him. His normally vibrant blond hair even seemed to have fallen to an ashy hue.
An arm. An eye. And now a heart. Who thought up those horrible keys anyway?
Simultaneously, Gisela burned with fury and sank with concern, but she had to push both away to deal with the problem at hand. She was a professional healer. Neither she nor her patients could afford to have her lose herself to emotions no matter how strong they were.
She called out orders and directed the men carrying Wolfram to Anissina's laboratory. The inventor had set up something to preserve his body until... Well, just until.
For just a moment she froze on the threshold of the room, noticing how Wolfram's new resting place so closely resembled a coffin. If it was some kind of dark joke then it was a poor one. Brushing her revulsion into the same corner her fear and anger were occupying, she returned to the youngest prince's side, performing all the diagnostic and restorative maryoku she could muster and then some.
As machines whirled and chugged in the background a cool mist surrounded his unclothed body, causing his life signs to stabilize. They were weak, but they were steady. It was as much as they could have hoped for, but it wasn't enough.
When the Shinou appears to be your enemy, who do you pray to for a miracle?
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It had finally happened. The most talked about engagement of the century had ended and not in marriage. There was no scandal, no shocking chain of events, and very little residual drama.
Yuuri had simply come to love Wolfram enough to realize what he needed to do. It wasn't like the other times he had mentioned calling off the engagement. There was a sense of finality in his voice almost akin to the determination in the Maou's speeches of justice even though his eyes were brimming with compassion.
Yuuri knew he had to break things off for Wolfram's own good as well as his own no matter how much it hurt. And it did hurt. Everyone involved and scores of people who weren't involved pitied the once-more-single prince.
Despite the year of hearing "cheater" ring out through the stone corridors, there was no one else Yuuri was turning to in place of Wolfram. He just knew Wolfram was meant to be a close friend and not a husband. In the end it wasn't even because they were both boys. Yuuri just didn't feel the same way about the prince. And when he saw the pain he caused in those fierce, green eyes, he wished he could have felt the same way just to make his friend feel better.
The blond was a kaleidoscope of emotions after that. One moment he was withdrawn and melancholy and the next he was tearing through the castle on a rampage. It turned out those were the easy versions with which to cope. Sometimes he would smile and laugh, determined not to let the world see him compromised. His mania was truly disturbing.
But he was beyond compromised. He was broken. Yuuri was the first person Wolfram had ever loved.
Cheri tried to mend her son's broken heart by setting him up with eligible men and ladies. She had even sent word to Elizabeth at one point. Needless to say, this approach was not particularly effective.
Gwendal filled his younger brother's days with hours of tedious work to distract him, but when one report was turned in with Yuuri's name burned into it, new arrangements for time off were made.
Anissina attempted to save the young man with one of her inventions. Forget-your-worries-kun was effective except that it temporarily erased all of Wolfram's memories for a few days. Ulrike had to spend at least an hour trying to explain her eyebrows to him before they were restored.
Yozak even jumped to Wolfram's aid by getting him extremely drunk one night. The resulting blaze turned one of the tack sheds to ash. It turned out Wolfram was not a happy drunk, and even though he couldn't walk in a straight line or say his own name without slurring, he could still manage some impressive pyrotechnics. And the resulting sickness put his sea voyages to shame.
Gisela did nothing to fix the younger man. She believed if anything could heal better than she could, it was time. So she waited quietly. It seemed it had always been in the silence when they communicated the best anyway.
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Wolfram's homecoming party was one of the largest and most resplendent events Cheri had thrown for the castle in ages. She had understood his need to leave for a while. It seemed Gwendal alone was exempt from the family tradition of wandering to find yourself.
The celebration was awkward at first, especially after Yuuri ran up and hugged him. The party-goers had collectively held their breath, letting it out when Wolfram shook his head and called their ruler a wimp.
After that the wine flowed and the music swelled and the vast grand hall was filled with laughter and the swishing of fine clothes upon the dance floor. Everyone was having such a good time that no one noticed when a certain healer snuck away from the pack, finding a comfortable spot on the balcony to watch the moonlight stream over the world below.
"Don't you know anything about homecoming parties? You are supposed to welcome me back before sneaking off." The blond tried to look irritated, but there was a little smile fighting to remain upon his lips.
"Oh, is that how they work? Forgive me, your highness. Welcome home." She turned from the railing to bow to him, looking a little amused. "Now, what happens next?"
He walked up to the railing next to her, leaning upon it. "This is the part where you hide me from all the other people who want to welcome me back and ask me how I've been. Mother knows I hate these things."
"She can't help herself." Trying not to laugh, she asked with a relatively straight face, "Did you have a nice talk with Elizabeth?"
"Gah! Don't remind me. And who was that duke with the purple hair? Did the invitation just say, 'my son is coming home, come get him?'"
"Of course, why do you think I'm here?" She gave him a little wink before they both laughed. It was loud at first, but then they remembered the party not far behind them and hushed each other which was somehow much more amusing, so they dissolved into relentless giggles. Although neither of them would have confessed to giggling.
"I'm glad you came, Gisela," he finally managed to say, breathing a little erratically from their fit.
"I'm glad you came back." She felt her cheeks warm a bit. It must have been the champagne from the toast.
"Me too. I almost didn't."
She didn't bother asking why not. That part was clear enough. "Why did you?"
He just shrugged silently. And after a few moments, he turned to her with a smile, "Want to sneak out of here?"
"I saw some ice cream in the kitchen," she smiled back.
"The strawberry is mine!"
"Race you for it!"